MONTREAL – Haiti’s prime minister wants Ottawa to give his government more say in how Canadian aid money is spent in his country as it struggles to rebuild after a devastating earthquake three years ago.
Laurent Lamothe spoke to The Canadian Press a few days after Canada’s international co-operation minister indicated Ottawa had halted funding for new development projects in Haiti.
Julian Fantino said he was disappointed by the lack of progress in Haiti and wanted to find a better way to help its reconstruction.
In an interview, Lamothe said he had also hoped to see more improvements on the ground.
Lamothe now is urging Ottawa to allow his government to assume a bigger role — alongside Canada — in the decisions involved in rebuilding Haiti.
“For any future co-operation, when it’s decided to resume, we will ask the Canadian government to focus on the priorities of the Haitian government,” he said by telephone Monday after meeting with Canada’s ambassador to Haiti in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
“Basically, the development assistance, because of the perceived weakness of Haitian institutions, was routed directly to NGOs (non-government organizations) and Canadian firms…
“That weakened our institutions.”
Lamothe’s remarks came a few days before the third anniversary of the 7.0-magnitude quake that killed an estimated 300,000 people in Haiti, injured 300,000 and left 1.5 million homeless.
The prime minister, who took office last May after being nominated by President Michel Martelly, said the temblor on Jan. 12, 2010, destroyed 42 public buildings and inflicted $12.5 billion in damage across the impoverished Caribbean nation.
“For any country, that would be a great disaster — for Haiti, it was magnified by 50,” Lamothe said.
“So, we are struggling and we are doing our very best to improve the economy, to create jobs.”
Fantino has said Canada has spent $1 billion on development in Haiti since 2006. His department, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), has announced funding for ongoing projects in Haiti will continue as it searches for a better way for the country to help itself.
The former head of the Ontario Provincial Police, who took over the CIDA portfolio from Bev Oda last year, told Montreal La Presse recently that Canada cannot take care of Haiti forever.
Lamothe insists his government’s hands are tied when it comes to development programs because it doesn’t receive any of CIDA’s aid. He wants Canada — and other donor countries — to work together to find a way to involve Haiti’s institutions in the process.
“It’s very difficult for us to be held accountable for progress or lack thereof,” said Lamothe, adding he appreciates all the support Haiti has received from Canada over the years.
“We want the (Haitian) government to be consulted together (with Canada) and we’ll do it in a transparent process… so that the Canadian taxpayer dollar is maximized to the best possible way.”
It’s unclear where Ottawa stands on opening up the process to the Haitian government. Fantino has declined interview requests by The Canadian Press and CIDA did not immediately respond to questions on the subject Tuesday.
In an interview broadcast Monday on an online radio show, Fantino said he expected to see more political leadership among Haitians.
“Canada expects transparency, accountability from the government of Haiti in exchange for future commitments,” Fantino told an Ontario-based radio program called The Motts.
He also credited the work of NGOs in Haiti.
“We want to work our way out of having to continue the contributions,” he said.