Haiti's Progress, Interview with World Bank Director for the Caribbean

Transcript of an interview with Caroline Anstey, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean.

It's now just been over a year since donors pledged 1.1 billion dollars to support Haiti's transition program. In general how much progress would you say has been made over the last twelve months?

Anstey: I think there's been important progress delivering jobs, delivering clean water, distributing text books, building roads, but it's not enough. We are halfway through now the Interim Corporation Framework, the program we all agreed to work on a year ago. And we really need to speed up our results on the ground. That said, to do that, we need much more stability and security, particularly in the capital, Port-Au-Prince, because that has been the main impediment to delivering real benefits to the Haitian people over the last year.

The efforts over the past year have been guided by the Interim Cooperation Framework that you just mentioned, the recovery program supported by the donors. What have been the aims of that framework?

Anstey: Well, framework was really focused on both political development and economic development, putting in place the situation where free and fair and transparent elections can happen in the fall, creating economic recovery, delivering basic services and looking at economic governance issues. And there has been progress on all those fronts. Important progress on registering people for elections, important progress on setting up macro-stability, putting in place anti-corruption units, working on transparency and procurement, important progress on building roads, delivering clean water, delivering service and education to people, and important progress in terms of working closely, coordination between the donors and between the interim government of Haiti.

Well, specifically how much of the donors funds have been dispersed?

Anstey: To date, the estimate is, as of May, 400 million had been dispersed. Some estimate that that has now risen to 500 million. The Interim Cooperation Framework was a two and a half year program of 1.1 billion. So, we are a little less than the halfway mark and we are a little less than dispersed half the money. That said, the disbursements at the beginning were very slow. It took a while for the donors to get going. That has now speeded up considerably. More money is coming forward, particularly in terms of job creation and results on the ground. But now, we have a new problem, which is that of insecurity, particularly in the slum areas of Port-au-Prince where the needs it the greatest.

So what's being done to meet the security challenge?

Anstey: I think that there are on-going discussions between the government and the UN peace-keeping force, the minister and the donors to look at how security forces can be used to help deliver development on the ground. Many of the donors, including the World Bank, are also working through local NGOs to have them deliver development on the ground. And also using the UN peace-keeping forces to do some infrastructure work themselves. That said, the climate of insecurity, particularly recently the spate of kidnappings has impeded not just the donors work but has really impeded the security of Haitians living in Haiti. And I think that as we go forward, that is something the international community, the government of Haiti, and the people of Haiti have to address.

In terms of the World Bank what are its future plans, in terms of Haiti?

Anstey: Well we have a re-engagement process with Haiti. We have committed to trying to put forward $150 million worth of assistance, during the Interim cooperation Framework period. We have divided that into two approaches. One is to restore creditability in Haitian institutions. And that means working on anti-corruption, working on procurement, working on transparency and good governance of the budget process. And also trying to deliver hope for the Haitian people, which means focusing on the results for the ground in terms of rapid employment, education, health, infrastructure. And we are taking to our Executive Board this week, a $38 million grant for Haiti for community-driven development, supporting local projects that are devised by local communities. As a way of empowering local communities, including them, and giving them voice, we also have a project that we have taken to our Board of $12 million for disaster mitigation. Haiti is very much affected by some of the natural disasters we've seen in the last year, particularly Hurricane Jean and Hurricane Ivan. And we have also done $61 million of budget support that we have taken to our Board. And we are waiting to disperse the last 15 million of that.

So the Bank is very active in Haiti. Our projects, which we've taken this year to the Board are in fact, first projects that we've taken to the board since 1996. And I think that this is a long term engagement that we at the Bank have committed to working to with the new government that will be elected in the fall. And particularly on working a PRSP and follow up the Interim Cooperation Framework, and that is something that we are at the moment, along with other donors, discussing with all political parties in Haiti and all potential presidential candidates

By PRSP you mean Poverty Reduction Strategy. To what extent is poverty a problem in Haiti?

Anstey: Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It is on some standards, the poorest country in the world. The majority of the population live in poverty. The majority of the population are illiterate. HIV/AIDS numbers are very high indeed, although we've seen some improvement recently, and Haitians live with daily insecurity and the threat of violence. So there is a need for the international community to engage with Haiti on the long haul.

One of the issues, when we sat down with the Interim Government a year ago with all the donors to discuss how we could go forward, we spent two days discussing some of the mistakes of the past. And I think that the entire international community and the Haitians too recognize that in the past, there had been insufficient transparency in the use of funds, insufficient attack on corruption, insufficient donor coordination, too much flag-planting on donor projects trying to underline our own work rather than coordinating around a common strategy, and insufficient focus on a strategy led by the Haitian people.

This time around, we tried to do it differently. The Interim Government has drawn up a strategy, they consulted on it, the donors have supported it, and we want now to roll that out into a poverty reduction strategy with the new authorities so that we can remain engaged in Haiti.