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EDITORIAL - Haiti needs a Marshall Plan

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Haiti is not unaccustomed to the world's attention in the immediate aftermath of some disaster, natural or man-made. But it is mostly fleeting.

In short order, the focus wanes and the world moves on to the next crisis, the next disaster, the next event. And Haiti reverts to being an untextured, non-contextual cliche - the poorest country in the hemisphere, the place where people can't manage themselves and around which presumed adherents to the Hippocratic oath, like our own Dr Jephthah Ford, believes, apparently, that there should be a cordon sanitaire, lest fleeing Haitians contaminate Jamaica. Or, of which, the likes of Pat Robertson, the American televangelist, can preach that the defeat by Haitian slaves of Napoleon's army was the result of a pact with the devil for which Haiti has been, and is now being punished by God.

A vast human tragedy

This time, hopefully, things will be different. For the magnitude of the crisis being faced by Haiti after last week's earthquake is unprecedented in its human, social, political and economic dimensions.

That perhaps as many as 100,000 or more people were killed is of itself a vast human tragedy. But then add to this the tens of thousands who have been displaced, their homes destroyed and livelihood ruined. On top of this must be piled the collapse of the public infrastructure and displacement of the bureaucracy of an already weak state.

Right now, Haiti needs the rescue-and-relief support that is so generously being offered by the world. But once the immediate crisis has passed, Haiti will need more than recovery in the conventional sense of the term. Haiti will require fundamental rebuilding, and for those who are Haiti's neighbours and friends to fully express the "common humanity" asserted by United States President Barack Obama in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.

Admirable solidarity

Pat Robertson notwithstanding, Mr Obama's country, with its relief support, is showing admirable solidarity with Haiti. That Mr Obama has recruited his two most immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton and George Bush, to raise money for the effort is good, but will not be sufficient. The rebuilding of Haiti will require something akin to America's Marshall Plan for Europe after the Second World War. This time, however, it ought to be a global effort.

The exercise clearly presumes a broader engagement of Haiti by its immediate neighbours in the Caribbean and, in particular, those countries that are its partners in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Jamaica, as the natural leader of CARICOM, must spearhead this process, which our role as coordinator of the community's efforts to help Haiti in this crisis puts us in an ever better position to do.

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