July 10, 2010; Source: Wall Street Journal |How unsurprising to learn that a substantial sum of aid pledged to Haiti after the January earthquake has not arrived. After every international disaster and many U.S. disasters various entities tabulate pledges of aid, sometimes in detailed spreadsheets, sometimes portrayed in hoary fundraising thermometers. But they don’t edit the charts months or years later to identify the donors that reneged on their pledges.
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The Haitian earthquake killed 230,000 people, injured 300,000, destroyed 80 percent of the buildings in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and displaced 1,000,000 Haitians. Some say that the disappearance of aid flows have brought reconstruction to a halt. Some of the problem is due to unclear land titles in the country, where maybe two-thirds of urban residents and nine-tenths of rural residents lack clear title to their properties. Much of the nation’s land, according to economist Hernando de Soto, is in the “extralegal” economy. Donors appear reluctant to provide the funding to build a promised 125,000 temporary housing units until title issues are resolved.
But that’s only one example of aid stoppage. Pledges from private donors and governments aren’t being fulfilled. “The money is not there,” says the Haitian government’s liaison to the U.N. “The Haitian people think the government is stealing the money, and the international community doesn’t want to say there is no money, and the government, which doesn’t communicate, doesn’t want to say there is no money.” We’re tired of all the chest-pounding tabulations of paper pledges and press releases. Next time, let’s look for spreadsheets and thermometers tabulating relief and reconstruction outcomes on the ground.—Rick Cohen