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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Planning for Haiti's Current and Future Infrastructure Needs


Special Briefing
Thomas C. Adams
Special Coordinator for Haiti 
Russell Porter, USAID Coordinator for Haiti Earthquake Reconstruction; Alexi Panehal, USAID Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
January 10, 2011

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OPERATOR: Welcome, and thank you for standing by. All lines are in listen-only mode until the question and answer session of today’s call. At that time, to ask a question, please press *1.

I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Mark Toner. Thank you. You may begin.

MR. TONER: Thank you, and thanks to all of you for joining us. As many of you know, we’ve – this is the second of three briefings that we’re doing in the run-up to the Wednesday one-year anniversary of the tragic earthquake that struck Haiti. Today’s call will focus specifically on efforts by the U.S. to coordinate, of course, with its international partners on the ground and the Haitian Government, to rebuild Haiti’s badly damaged infrastructure.

We’re joined today by Thomas Adams, the Special Coordinator for Haiti, as well as Russell Porter, who is USAID’s Coordinator for Haiti Earthquake Reconstruction, and also Alexi Panehal, who’s the director of the Office of Infrastructure and Engineering at USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade.

Just a reminder, today’s call is on the record. And with that, I’ll hand it over to Tom Adams who will just give us a brief overview, and then over to Russell, and then to your questions. Tom, go ahead.

MR. ADAMS: Sure. Good afternoon, everybody. Delighted to join you today to talk about Haiti as we approach the one-year anniversary of the earthquake.

Haiti has – even before the earthquake, in 2009 Secretary Clinton made Haiti one of the priorities of her tenure. She called for a whole-of-government review of how we work with Haiti and the creation of a strategy on how to course a chart of sustainable development and prosperity, with each dollar making the maximum impact. Obviously, when we started this, we didn’t imagine that the circumstances would change so radically a year ago with the earthquake.

Following the earthquake, President Obama mandated a whole-of-government approach which was very successful. I think in the emergency phase, the United States, along with a number of NGOs and other donors, stabilized Haiti in a massive effort. And since then, we have now turned our sights on how to go back to, really, the original question of sustainable economic growth and development there, how to permanently stabilize Haiti.

I think everybody involved in this realized that this is going to take a decade or more getting Haiti headed in the right direction. It’s not going to be fast or easy. Haiti presents unique challenges, but I think we have made a good start. Part of that start is the international effort. Donors have pledged something just shy of $10 billion to fix Haiti in new money since the earthquake. The United States’ share of that is a little over a billion dollars, and there are ongoing efforts to address its key issues: shelter, of course; rubble removal; the education system needs retuning; the Government of Haiti, which had limited capacity even before the earthquake, needs to be tuned up; the business climate there needs to be improved; Haiti ranks near the bottom of ease of doing business and so on. There are a number of challenges.

And to coordinate all this, the International[i] Haiti Recovery Commission was established under the co-chairmanship of Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and President Bill Clinton. And this institution has coordinated the recovery in line with the Government of Haiti’s priorities and continues to do so and is growing more effective each month as it staffs up. The beauty of this mechanism is that as donors use it, as well as NGOs who are not required, but who are encouraged to use it, it gets all the – it makes sure the money spent is matched up against Haiti’s priorities. It also includes governmental permits and has turned out to be an innovative and successful effort.

So I’ll stop here now and ask Russell Porter to say a few words about the U.S. Government response which is being (inaudible) by a number of agencies, but USAID plays, of course, a major role in this.

MR. PORTER: Thanks, Tom. I appreciate that. And I think that when you look at an earthquake, obviously, infrastructure is something that we clearly see as a need and something to focus on as we go forward, and infrastructure encompasses quite a bit of our energy and efforts in Haiti.

One of the things that we have done is, with the destruction of 28 out of 29 Government of Haiti buildings in Port-au-Prince, we did focus, early on, on some initial structures for the Haitian Government, and including the refurbishment of the former U.S. Embassy and the former U.S. AID compound, which are down in downtown Port-au-Prince, right on the bay. Those were refurbished and were – and have been opened up – the former embassy to the prime minister’s office and the IHRC is also on that location now. And the former AID complex is now the home for the courts and administrative offices for justice there for now.

The – we have also placed a temporary structure on the grounds of the presidential palace. It’s a large structure that houses about a hundred employees for the president’s office. It’s sort of a command center type thing, very open, but with much more of a permanent structure than the tents they were in in the months immediately after the earthquake, and that opened up this past summer.

As we look forward, there’s a lot of infrastructure yet to do. We’re also beginning to work on a temporary structure, meaning it would last a couple of years, for the new parliament until a permanent new parliament building can be put in place. That should be going up shortly, and we hope to be able to announce a groundbreaking for that in the next few days or weeks, if not sooner.

We also have put some emphasis on shelter for people. Over the past year, we’ve provided shelter for 1.5 million people on an emergency basis. We’ve built 12,000 temporary shelters towards our goal of 33,000 t-shelters, which are more permanent with sort of generally stronger walls, a stronger roof, with a little bit of two-by-fours and some foundation that goes into that.

We also provided – back to Tom’s point about working with the international community – we provided $65 million to the IHRC for housing and urban upgrading in Port-au-Prince, and then we’ve also provided funding for rubble removal. Obviously, with an earthquake the size of Haiti, removing rubble is a critical element. And we’ve moved – and I’ll say at least 1.3 million metric tons of rubble. The figure is actually higher than that of what AID has been responsible for moving, but some of our reporting from our NGO partners is not expected back until the end of January. So I’m confident on the 1.3 million, but I am also confident that it’s higher than that right now.

And it’s been a bit of a challenge over the year because of – as many of you all know, if you’ve been to Haiti, the traffic and moving things around within the city is difficult and so we’ve been adjusting this throughout the year, trying to figure out the best way to do it. And the way we’ve been doing it now is moving a lot of this rubble at night so that more rubble can be moved with less traffic, and taking the turnaround time that used to take four hours from the rubble site to the qualified dump site and getting that dump truck back to the site was taking hours. And if you do it at night when there’s less traffic, they can do three or four runs in the same amount of time. So we’ve also spent the past year with a lot of – learning a lot of lessons on this and trying to increase efficiencies as we go.

So maybe that’s just a general introduction, and happy to take your questions.

MR. TONER: Thank you very much, Russell. Operator, we’ll go ahead and open it up for Q&A right now.

OPERATOR: Thank you very much. At this time, if you’d like to ask a question, you may do so by pressing * then 1 on your phone. You’ll be prompted to record your name so that I may introduce your question. Once again, that is * then 1 if you’d like to ask a question. One moment, please, for our first question.

Our first question today comes from Arshad Mohammed. That line is now open.

QUESTION: Gentlemen, thanks for doing the briefing today. Just two – or a couple of questions. One, you said that the international commitments for Haiti’s reconstruction came to about $10 billion, of which the U.S. share was about a billion. How much of that money has actually been received, and how much is simply out there as a pledge or a promise? And second, how much of that has actually been spent?

And then a second question: My colleagues who write about Haiti emphasize to me, just as you both did, the importance of and the enormity of the task of rubble removal. And their estimates are that only something like 5 percent of the rubble may have been removed so far. Is – regardless of the aggregate number, and that 1.3 million metric tons is a big number – do you have a sense in percentage terms of how much of the rubble that needs to be removed has been? And do you have a target for when it’ll all be moved?

MR. ADAMS: This is Tom Adams. Let me take a first stab at your two questions. On the rubble, initially the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that there was something like 19 million cubic meters of rubble in Haiti. Subsequent counting by the IHRC has reduced that number to – they think it was somewhere between 12 and 13 in cubic meters of rubble there. Since the beginning of rubble removal, I think, Russell, the estimates are that about 2 million cubic meters of that has been removed, with USAID responsible for well over half. I think the United States has committed over $100 million to rubble removal.

The IHRC estimates that that leaves something like 10 million cubic meters of rubble to be removed. And they believe that within certain conditions – and the conditions are that $160 million dollars be made available over the next year in a timely fashion – that various disposal and processing sites be set up, a better system for traffic to remove the rubble, which is to say that if you’ve been to Port-au-Prince, you know the traffic jams are horrendous. They would basically process rubble during the day and then truck it at night, when a roundtrip to the dump site would take about an hour, as opposed to 4.5 hours during the day.

There are certain other conditions to strengthen certain government institutions and so on and so forth. They believe if all these conditions are met by October of next year, an additional 4 million cubic meters of rubble will be removed. And the hope is that in the following year, year and a half, the rest could be removed. That’s pretty ambitious. And again, it depends on a lot of conditions being met. But just to point out, in Aceh, it took them two years to remove about a million cubic meters of rubble.

So again, I don’t think the rubble is so bad. It’s really picked up a lot lately. Anybody’s who’s been to Port-au-Prince will tell you that they’re seeing a lot more rubble removed now, but it is – there is still a lot of it, and there are problems taking it out of these dense neighborhoods. You cannot always use mechanized (inaudible). That would be more efficient. There’s a lot of hand work, cash-for-work programs. Russell may want to add to that.

Let me go back to your other question before I turn it back to him. And that’s that not all the money that was pledged was to be spent in one year. It was a multiyear. And basically, the pledges for 20,010[ii] were about $5.574 million – about $5.5 billion were pledged to be spent this year. And the reports from the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti, which are on the website there, indicate that about 63 percent of that has been disbursed to date from their latest updated chart, which is December 2010. So that’s not too bad.

And again, in prior emergencies, the donor community, the NGOs and others who were working didn’t usually hit their pace till about 18 months after the crisis – take them that long. And you see in Haiti where, for example, Russell talked about t-shelter construction, which has been slow, but the pace has picked up in recent weeks as NGOs kind of figure out the system and get organized and are building at a much quicker pace. So again, this isn’t to say that the people of Haiti should be – are not right in wishing that the pace of reconstruction could be faster. I think we all would like it to be faster. But compared to other emergencies, it’s moving along at average or better-than-average pace in many areas.

QUESTION: Have there been any difficulties in getting pledges that have been made to be carried through on? Or have the donors generally come up with the money when they promised they would?

MR. ADAMS: I think, by and large, the pledges are being honored here. As I look down this chart, the large donors – the U.S., Canada, France, the EU, the World Bank, the IDB – are all performing pretty well. Some of the small donors – for example, and this isn’t to pick on them – Qatar recently, just about three weeks ago, made a pledge of 20 million and, not surprisingly, haven’t disbursed any of it, so – but I think the major donors – Brazil and Japan and others – are doing pretty well.

QUESTION: And just so I’m clear – and sorry, last one on the numbers for me on this, but the – you said that of the pledges for 2010, of 5.574 billion to be spent in 2010, you said that the reports in the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti, you said that about 63 percent of that had been disbursed. Does that mean that money had been – had gone from the donors to the recipient agencies, or does that mean that that had gone all the way through to the end users? In other words, had it not just been disbursed by the donors, but actually spent on the ground?

MR. ADAMS: That means it’s been obligated to a contractor or to an NGO. The actual liquidation – you’re asking for liquidations, have they finished spending the money – and no, it’s – we don’t have that data, and it’s very hard to get current data on that, so we could (inaudible) that. Yep.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. PORTER: And the only thing I would add to that, and I think Tom gave a great – really a good overview of that. But just to – on our figures for rubble, so you have them, the – we’ve spent a little over $100 million, about closer to 110 million thus far on rubble removal, including the efforts from DOD early on. Over the summer, where they helped clear some canals that had been filled with rubble that would – and they cleared them in order to prevent flooding when the rains come, so we did a lot of that. And then in addition, we’ve provided 25 million to the IHRC through the Haiti Reconstruction Fund that’s managed by the World Bank for rubble removal, and then we have some additional funding that we’re doing directly ourselves. So we – it’s something that we’ve put a large priority on. And then – so I hope that helps.

OPERATOR: Our next question today comes from Tejinder Singh. That line is now open.

QUESTION: Yes, good morning and thank you for doing this. My first question is that what will you say to the criticism that you are doing it inside out instead of starting from outside? And the locals claim that there is a lot of corruption in these contracts that are being given about cleaning.

MR. ADAMS: Yeah. Russell, you want to talk about AID’s contracting process, and then I’ll talk about sort of the larger international effort?

MR. PORTER: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. I mean, we – a lot of the money that we’ve obligated and spent to date was done on an emergency basis. And the contracts were selected based on pre-competed and instruments that were done so that we could respond quickly, get people on the ground, and get things moving. And so we’ve – that’s how we were working with the International Organization of Migration, that’s how we were working with Catholic Relief Services and World Vision and some others to – and that’s so that we could get people on the ground moving food and shelter, getting people employed, those things really quickly and up and going.

I mean, I think you also have to keep in mind that some of the – that when you were looking at Haiti back in February – January, February, even into March when some of these things were being – and our programs were starting up on the ground intensely, a lot of the folks in Haiti were still recovering from this, and so it made sense. And this is – our experience worldwide is to bring in people who – whose sole responsibility is to focus on the emergency relief and getting things going. And so I think that that’s where you’ve seen a lot of our contracts and grants to date, and it’s focused, and I think we’ve seen a lot of success out of that.

But going forward, what we’re looking for is to be able to partner with as many groups on the ground as we can. And I think we – right now, we’re putting contracts and grant – scopes of work and proposals, documents into French and Creole when we can so that people on the ground can respond to them and bid on them as well.

We also, though, through the organizations that we have contracted with directly, we’ve worked with several thousand local NGOs. We’ve worked – IOM, for example, has partnered with over 2,500 direct businesses and NGOs in Haiti. Through our farming program, we’ve worked with over 250 farm cooperatives directly through our farming program and agriculture program. So we’ve worked with local businesses throughout Haiti. And so while the funds may not go directly from AID at this stage because it’s been focused on the emergency response, I think you will see that and I think we’re going to be working with Haitian groups more directly as we go forward, because now, we’re looking at more of a longer-term, less sort of crisis response-type program.

MR. ADAMS: Let me just jump in here. This is Tom Adams again. Yeah, Haiti does rank very poorly on various corruption indices – the Transparency International, those on the appearance of – perception of corruption. And there are a couple of things being done to address that. One is that the government agreed to – as part of the IHRC effort, to rigorous audit and transparency obligations. And I think if you go on the websites of the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti at the UN and at the IHRC, you’ll see some of that transparency reflected.

The other thing is as we build the capacity of the government there, we are mindful of the need to really strengthen the Government of Haiti by providing government workers with wages they can live on so they don’t have to have second jobs. We also are working with them to build in better accountability and transparency through the ministry of finance and others. So while the Government of Haiti has problems, they are committed to addressing this. We are –the Canadians, for example, internationally are working to improve customs procedures. The – all donors have money to strengthen government institutions. We have Treasury advisors going into the ministry of finance, for example. And so I think you’ll – the assistance from expatriates and various ministries is another way we’re helping to reduce this problem. So we do recognize it, and the Government of Haiti is committed to helping us address it.

QUESTION: My question was not based on transparency (inaudible). I have been there and I have eyes and ears who are giving me the information that there is town tours on the street, corruption in this context, that some (inaudible) done on paper and it is not done.

And the second question is: Can you give me a breakdown of how much money to reach (inaudible)? Because small NGOs are complaining that they have been elbowed out. And have you done anything outside the radius of 10 miles from the center of the capital?

MR. ADAMS: Yeah, those are a lot of questions. I mean, I think initially, as Russell said, these were pre-competed contracts. And so they were already given out to contractors who would hire Haitian subcontractors. As we dip into our next tranche of money, the – sort of the non-humanitarian aid in a large way, there will be greater opportunities for Haitian contractors to bid. And efforts are being made by USAID and others to facilitate that.

MR. PORTER: Yeah. I mean, just to jump in real quick, I mean, I think that we’re doing a lot to sort of bring in the local Haitian organizations, be they NGOs or contractors into this. And we’ve worked a lot through a lot of – through local NGOs. So I think that we have been doing that, and I think we’re doing it more and more. I mean, if you just look at the response that we’ve had for cholera, for example, we’ve worked with hundreds of NGOs outside of Port-au-Prince. With our agriculture program, we’ve worked a great deal with these 250 farm cooperatives outside of Port-au-Prince. We’ve been hosting families – or supporting families who are hosting internally displaced people from Port-au-Prince. We’ve been hosting them throughout the country, mainly in the north, and we’ve been working with local NGOs on that, too, to support those families outside of Port-au-Prince. So I think we’ve done a lot to work with NGOs both inside and outside of the capital.

And then I would just add one other thing we’re doing on corruption is we’re – we’ve been working to support the treasury, as Tom was saying, through the creation of an integrated financial management system which would allow the president’s office, the treasury, the ministry of planning, and other agencies of the Haitian Government to be able to comprehensively see their budget, where money is going and contracting and all of that.

And we were close to having that fully up and running before the earthquake, but the earthquake sort of destroyed a lot of that infrastructure, so we’re now sort of putting that back in place and recreating that. And we’re making good progress on it, but I think that the benefit of that will be to lessen the amount of internal corruption and create more transparency in the process of budgeting and how money is spent from the Government of Haiti.

MR. ADAMS: Let me go – let me respond to your other question about outside of Port-au-Prince. Now, obviously, the earthquake was particularly devastating in Port-au-Prince and in nearby Leogane, so initial recovery efforts were directed to the areas most heavily impacted. But as we move on the development side, part of the development plan is to try to decongest Port-au-Prince and to make jobs available elsewhere in the country.

And the United States has picked three development quarters for intensive work, in agriculture and in trying to encourage industry, repair roads, et cetera. One of these is up around Cap Haitien in the north; another one is in the Artibonite in the west, kind of in the center of the country; and a third one is called the Sac Watershed, which is to the east of Port-au-Prince. And you also have other countries – the Canadians, for example, working in the south out in (inaudible) in the west. So there are efforts to develop outside of Port-au-Prince. We are working on an industrial zone up around Cap Haitien, which would provide a lot of jobs that would take advantage of the HELP Act. A second industrial center might come later near Port-au-Prince.

So yes, we are mindful that economically at least the whole country needs help, not just the capital.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ADAMS: You’re very welcome.

OPERATOR: Our next question today comes from William Wheeler. That line is now open.

QUESTION: Hi, gentlemen. The question is – you went to a place like Corail and you looked at kind of the lack of development expertise on the part of humanitarian agencies there. Is there a strategy there? It seems like there’s a gap between this relief and the development work. How are you going to negotiate that gap, particularly in a place like Corail?

And then also, what was the holdup on the t-shelters? I think there was a statistic there – 1,000 constructed out of a target of about 30,000? What was the numbers that you’re shooting for and specifically what do you think has bogged down some of the NGOs that got those contracts?

MR. PORTER: We’re actually close to 14,000, not 1,000, out of 33 that we’re looking at. And the international community is looking at a much larger number. But the holdup has been, in many ways, land, finding good land to put – with title where we can put these shelters on. That has been an issue. And that requires both identifying the land, getting the title. That kind of thing takes time because you can’t put up a shelter that’s going to last several years if you’re not sure of who owns it and what’s going to happen to that land in the future.

MS. PANEHAL: I guess I would also add – this is Alexi -- that initially the donor community was pushing t-shelters, but in the summertime there was a shift and the thinking was that at the same time that we’re working on trying to reach our goals on t-shelters, we also need to be designing our programs for more permanent shelters. And so I think there was sort of a leapfrog effect where people decided that they needed to be designing and implementing and funding the permanent shelter solutions as well, and so they’ve been moving in tandem, if you will.

The issue about Corail is the concern, of course, for everyone in the donor community. One of the things that we have done here at USAID is try to identify sites for new settlements for those internally displaced households who cannot be housed in their former neighborhoods. As all of you know, there was significant damage throughout Port-au-Prince and the neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince are very dense, and there were some shelters and some housing structures that were totally destroyed. So in the interest of building back better, there are some IDP households who may not be able to be accommodated in their existing neighborhoods, so we’re looking at new settlements for those IDP families.

And when we’re looking at those new settlements, what we’re looking at is access to transportation and whether there are jobs in the vicinity or jobs being created in the vicinity. And we’re actually looking at smaller settlements that have a mixed income so you have some middle income households there as well as the lower income households, in the hopes that this will help create a more viable and sustainable community.

MR. ADAMS: Yeah, let me just add – this is Tom Adams – that also we and others working with the Haitian Ministry of Public Works have surveyed and evaluated 377,446 buildings out of an estimated 400,000 buildings that required habitability assessments. And over half of these houses were coded green, or safe for habitation. Another 26 percent were classified as yellow, meaning they can be made safe with repairs. And only about 21 percent are considered unsafe for habitation and require major repairs or demolition.

So when you get right down to it, 20 percent or less of the houses there are not repairable and safe for people to go back into. So there’s an effort – we’re doing work in three neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince to kind of go into these neighborhoods and really restore the neighborhoods to habitability.

So that’s another option. There’s also guesting. We have funded families that are willing to take people into their homes, basically, as another solution. So there are a variety of shelter solutions that are being pushed, not just t-shelters. But we do – we did not meet our targets for t-shelters. But as I said, if you’ve been there recently, the pace of t-shelter construction has picked up markedly. And again, I think it’s because NGOs are kind of figuring out the system.

QUESTION: Thanks.

OPERATOR: At this time we have no further questions in queue.

MR. TONER: Thank you very much to all our participants.

MR. ADAMS: Thank you.

MR. PORTER: Thanks to everybody for your interest in this. Thank you.

MR. TONER: Have a great day.

OPERATOR: That concludes today’s conference. You may disconnect at this time.


[i] Interim

[ii] 2010



PRN: 2011/042



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