In July 2010, Congress passed the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010, which provided more than $1.14 billion in reconstruction funds for Haiti. In November of 2011 a 58 page report was presented to the US congress explaining why it is taking so long to get the project up to speed.
Investing US tax dollars to help those at the bottom of the economic pyramid is a worthy endeavor, but a part of the construction foundation is missing from these action plans.
A portion of the US aid investment in Haiti involves repairing or constructing support infrastructure in various parts of the country. Delays have been reported in the contracting process which have slowed the infrastructure reconstruction activities promised for Haiti.
Charts in the report suggest that obligations versus expenditures are askew. Is there something else missing from the planning?
The following is a portion of the Sustainability plans for the Housing Sector of Haiti’s economy:
According to USAID’s plans, site locations are being selected in areas where residents have access to jobs and/or transportation. USAID is planning to fund technical assistance programs to improve the capacity of the national government to improve urban management, and will seek possible solutions to policy challenges such as the absence of legislation to guide housing, land-use, and urban planning; lack of an independent regulatory body for the construction sector; and lack of institutional capacity in urban planning. At the local level, USAID plans to provide technical assistance to municipalities in areas such as land use planning, building standards, and enforcement mechanisms; and to establish community management committees to guide community development.
USAID recognizes that the sustainability of the new settlements depends on the ability of Haitians to pay taxes and the ability of the Haitian government to manage and maintain infrastructure and services over the long term. This, in turn, depends on whether the Haitian economy can provide adequate job opportunities and whether the Haitian government can effectively govern.
The construction plans list water canals, prisons, hospitals, ports and power stations in addition to housing initiatives. Most of these plans involve projects that will have a huge impact on the construction supply systems of Haiti. Two facts remain; Haiti uses cement-based materials in abundance and they have a broken concrete supply system.
US investments must include plans for creating a stronger concrete supply chain. This effort will add to the job growth goals of USAID and improve the sustainably of their infrastructure projects in the country.
Concrete will be the most consumed product during the reconstruction process, so we must insure a functioning concrete supply system. Without providing quality concrete the risk of loss increases and these funds will be wasted. Logic suggests that concrete quality should be targeted as an early investment strategy.
We continue to suggest to the planners at USAID and the government of Haiti that investing in quality concrete processes will do more to make Haiti sustainable than any other initiative. We invite others to join us in this discussion.