Senior State Department Official Previewing the Haiti Partners Ministerial

Special Briefing
Senior Department Official
New York , NY
September 26, 2012

MODERATOR: All right, everybody. Thank you for joining us this morning. We have with us [Senior State Department Official] to give you a preview on background of the Haiti Partners Ministerial that’s going to happen tomorrow. And after that, we’ll have a separate backgrounder, a short one just to read out the Secretary’s meeting with Davutoglu and do a little housekeeping for the rest of the day. So hereafter known as Senior State Department Official, take it away, [Senior State Department Official].

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I know all of you guys are probably want to leave after Haiti. What we all know, right? (Laughter.) Just kidding you.

Well, first of all, thanks for being here. And secondly, tomorrow is an opportunity for the Haitian Government to actually not only share where their vision has taken them now that Martelly is fully ensconced as president, he has a prime minister that he is working closely with and he has a government that he has appointed and feels strongly about. But really it’s an opportunity for them to say to the donors for the first time we are actually in the driver’s seat and we are looking to be able to coordinate you in a fundamentally different way and be able to ensure that our leadership actually produces results.

I think one of the things that President Clinton said about the Haitian Government yesterday at CGI is that I like this government because they make decisions; I might not always agree with them, but they make decisions. And it is true that this is an administration that is committed to actually seeing an improvement for the livelihoods of their citizens and are willing to make decisions. And I think what that means for donors and partners is to ensure that they are actually working collaboratively and effectively because it’s not an instance of an administration that’s not willing to state its views, to state where it wants to see matters go, and to also be fairly direct also when they see things that are being done in a fashion that’s inconsistent with what they would believe is in the best interest.

So in that sense, I think this is a terrific opportunity for the Haitian Government. I think that there has been a lot of progress that they likely will point to, progress that they’ve made in education and the number of kids that they now have in school, progress that they’ve made in the partnerships that have reinforced and supported some of the donors’ key activities. Certainly for us, we have invested in the energy sector by putting in place a management consulting team that has helped identify about a million and a half per month in savings just in their first few months there. They’ve already doubled the amount of revenues that the electric utility is receiving. It’s going to basically increase the amount of folks who get energy by about a third, and they have been leading that and vigorous partners. So in lots of ways, whenever we’ve hit roadblocks or there’s been challenges, they have been the first ones to clear them out. But more importantly, they have been the ones to push and say that they want more.

Similarly, in housing, we have seen them make decisions so that people can actually be allocated housing and have a ministry that operates to decide policies and practices so that housing can be allocated and so that land can be addressed so that people can see the fruits of their labor. Certainly for our part, if you actually look at what has happened, one of the biggest differences you see when you go to Haiti is the number of people who are in tents. When used to arrive right after the earthquake, there was about a million and a half. Now there’s only 370,000. Three hundred and seventy thousand is still a lot of folks, and that’s a figure that IOM maintains, but it is a remarkable difference when you’re there.

The other remarkable difference is the amount of rubble that is gone. They had about 10 million cubic meters of rubble. About seven and a half of that has been removed, and the United States removed about two and a half of that with respect to our funding. And so that is also like a dramatic change when you actually go to Haiti.

The other things that I think in terms of housing, because of their efforts that they’ve made, there’s been a lot of efforts by donors to assist in providing solutions, housing solutions for individuals, be those solutions rentals, be those solutions the opportunity to be in t- shelters, or be those solutions the opportunity to be in long-term housing. For our part, we’ve done about 6,000 repairs that have actually helped people move into housing. We’ve also begun housing – new housing developments that, for those of you all who travel with the Secretary in October, she is going to be traveling to Haiti and will be looking at some of the improvements that are being made in the north. There will be a housing development there that she will be visiting. But there are a numbers of housings that we are doing both in the north of Haiti as well as in the Port-au-Prince region, and that is largely because of the Haitian Government’s ability to make some decisions, which has taken quite some time in the past and now is working reasonably well.

The other thing that the Haitian Government has been relentlessly supportive of has been the industrial park, which for us has been a major investment and collaboration with the IDB, the Government of Haiti, as well as a lot of other partners in the region. And it is going to end up with development that – outside of the park and inside of the park that will contribute to about 25,000 people who have homes, about 15,000 people who actually have, for the first time, formal jobs. In fact, the bulk of the folks who are there working right now, about 800 of them who already onboard, and the park just opened in May. And by the end of the year, we’ll probably have about 1,600 people onboard – are women and they are first-time workers. So that is a big opportunity, and ultimately this park will grow to encompass about 20,000 workers just with the first tenant alone. And there is now a new Haitian tenant as well.

And we also have been supportive of and contributing to the establishment of a new electrical plant that’s there that is going to basically provide about 100,000 folks who didn’t have it before with power. So there’s a lot that’s going on and a lot of opportunities for donors now to see their work actually be able to come to fruition, both because there’s been a lot of planning, but also there’s a government who’s willing to make decisions.

I think the biggest challenge right now confronting Haiti, from my own observations, is that they have an election that they haven’t held yet. And to have an election effectively, they have to be able to step through what it means to actually appoint electoral council board. President Martelly is the first President who actually did appoint the council of judicial leadership, which basically provides for the leadership of the supreme court. It allowed, for the first time, for three members to be appointed. So it’s the first time all three branches of government have actually been stood up since the constitution in 1987. The challenge is while the courts have appointed their three, and the President has appointed his three, the legislatures have not. That has stymied the elections, which were supposed to have been held certainly this fall, because it’s elections for all their different senators, about a third of them, as well as for a lot of their local officials. And so they are going to have to find their way to a negotiated solution among their political leaders to achieve that. And that probably will take some doing.

But I certainly do believe that this is a committed administration and a committed parliament to try and figure out how best to do that. And while there are always challenges of individuals, these collective institutions are truly committed to trying to figure out how they actually can move forward and ensure that there are elections. And certainly we are partnering with them to see that that happens. So that’s an overview, but happy to take any questions about Haiti.


QUESTION: I have two questions – sort of a broad one, which is in the broadest sense: What kind of outcomes do you expect from tomorrow’s meeting? And I know it’s not a pledging meeting, but are you expecting new commitments or a new understanding of how this works? And secondly, when you talked about the housing, in the past it was always described land tenure laws and practices were a real Gordian knot and you couldn’t get people into houses. Has that really been solved at this stage, or is that still a work in progress?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the first – the answer to your first question is tomorrow I think what the Haitian Government will do both is reaffirm their priorities, but they also will lay out what they see as the donor mechanism for this particular administration, which we have not had, right, because this President came onboard right when the IHRC was lapsing. And so this is going to be the first opportunity for them to lay out how they see donors coordinating effectively and ensuring that their investments are consistent with their priorities, and I think that plus all of the different nations who are there obviously will speak to what they see has been their progress and whether they see any challenges, because it typically is an opportunity for that kind of direct sharing at a very high level and an opportunity for people to recommit to their partnership with Haiti.

In terms of land tenure, like most developing nations, land tenure, I think, will be a long-term challenge for Haiti. I think the difference is in the past, where there was not a mechanism to be able to actually work through the challenge, there is now an opportunity with this government to go to their housing apparatus , which they set up as a ministry, and actually work in partnership with them to come to a resolution. It doesn’t make it easy. It’s not clean. It’s not the same as certainly here in the United States when you – when there’s a transfer without necessarily a lot of significant government involvement, but there is now an opportunity to be able to pursue that path, and hopefully over time, that will become easier and easier as they develop new means and mechanisms to make that both transparent and much more efficient.

MODERATOR: Other questions? No? Okay. Very rich agenda.

PRN: 2012/1523