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“HAITI is open for business”, Michel Martelly, the country’s president since May 2011, likes to proclaim. His government has backed up this talk by making it easier for foreigners to own property and by setting as a goal that Haiti climb into the top 50 countries in the World Bank’s ranking for ease of doing business (it now comes 174th out of 185).
But gangbuster growth, hoped for as the country rebuilds itself after the earthquake of January 12th 2010 that wrecked the capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed tens of thousands of people, has failed to materialise.
Billions of dollars of aid were pledged to Haiti after the earthquake, amid much talk about “building back better” and working with—not around—the government so as not to perpetuate the “Republic of NGOs”. But according to reports from the Centre for Global Development, a Washington think-tank, and the UN Special Envoy for Haiti, many aid pledges were unfulfilled. And in practice, most of the money that was disbursed went to a handful of international bodies, which mainly spent it on temporary relief (tents, shelters, water-tankers and so on) and the salaries of expat staff. Grand schemes to remake Haiti came almost to nought, partly because they lacked local input: outsiders have finally come round to the view of many Haitians that what is most needed is speedy and cheap housing.