When the 2010 Haitian earthquake hit, former political foes Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush joined forces to form the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Nearly three years later, the country's national economy is still buried under a pile of rubble and recovery efforts seemed to be at a veritable standstill — that is, until the dynamic duo of Clinton and Bush offered the Haiti Housing Finance Facility project $3 million to get the $26 million project moving along.
Though there was a flood of financial aid in response to the earthquake, getting those aid dollars where they needed to be has been a slow. According to the U.N. and Oxfam, as of January 2012, only 43% of the $4.5 billion pledged by the United States earmarked for reconstruction projects had been disbursed. Adding to that dismal stat, only 34% of the $315 million in health grants and 40% of money pledged for rebuilding the country's agriculture industry had been doled out.
To say the Haiti's national economy is buried under a pile of rubble seems like a bit of an understatement. Does Haiti's economy even exist?
First things first. People have innate responses to disasters, the first being to secure safe shelter, then food, clothing and other basic necessities. Only after those needs are met can Haitians begin to collectively rebuild their national economy. According to Oxfam, nearly 500,000 Haitians remain homeless.
With nearly half a million homeless, the Haiti Housing Finance Facility project makes sense. Though the project sounded good on paper, no other organization seemed to want to go near it. Given how slowly aid dollars were being put to use, I can't say I really blame them. It took a $3 million triple-dog-dare grant from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund before Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) decided to write their respective $17 million and $6 million checks.
No matter how the funding happened, it happened. The project will offer microloans and micro-mortgages to foster homeownership and help repair businesses destroyed in the quake. On the importance of the project, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund CEO Gary Edson pointed out that "...these borrowers are also bolstering the construction sector, hiring building teams, and multiplying the positive impact the project has on Haiti’s economy."
OPIC Executive Vice President Mimi Alemayehou spoke out regarding OPIC's $17 million in support by stating "The fact that we can join with sister agency USAID and dedicated partners such as the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and DIG to provide ordinary Haitians greater access to housing finance speaks to our mutual commitment to support Haiti’s economic growth." The Development Innovations Group (DIG) is the private company that will manage the Housing Finance Project.
Hopefully, this four-way partnership will move from words and checks to welcome mats and open-for-business signs quickly. Two years from now, we all want to hear what the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, OPIC, USAID and DIG have done and not what they haven't done.