Whatever happened to all that aid for Haiti, Emily Troutman asked on the fifth anniversary of the January 12 earthquake. Why is it that there are so many more luxurious hotels and such few schools, hospitals and other basics?
It’s a good question but the proliferation of hotels and absence of hospitals says more about Haiti’s dysfunctional systems and priorities than only the tangled business of aid and its failure to invest wisely, coherently and consistently.
Hotels are obviously being built because there’s someone willing to invest in what they see as a business opportunity.
When I lived in Port au Prince, Haiti’s first locally based, locally focussed investment fund told me it planned to hand out some of the cash to hotel start-ups. The logic was that Haitian expats needed somewhere to stay when they visited friends and family.
Many Haitian expats agreed and it might be supposed that the business they bring has some domino effect, albeit small right now and cannot, in the short term, be the rising tide that lifts all boats.
So too for the resort opportunities that have speedily opened up. The Haitian government seems to have had enough focus to allow those projects to pass scrutiny. There are signs that the Haitian ministry of tourism’s attempt to grow the sector is proceeding apace.
That said, nothing can excuse the lack of basic infrastructure in Haiti five years after the earth shook and an appalled world made generous pledges to the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
A big part of the failure lies with the Haitian government.