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Five smart ways to rebuild Haiti

Haiti doesn’t need a Marshall Plan imposed by global elites. It needs improved conditions that empower all its people.

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International discussions on how to deal with postquake Haiti are shifting from lifesaving relief efforts to the more complex task of rebuilding the country. 

Opinions about how to reconstruct Haiti tend to coalesce into two camps. 

On one side are the reformists – in author Naomi Klein’s formulation, the “disaster capitalists.” To the reformers, disasters in fragile states such as Afghanistan, Sudan, and Haiti represent opportunities to “build back better.” Leading development thinkers Jean-Louis Warnholz and Paul Collier, for example, have proposed a Marshall Plan, including a provisional development authority and a strategic scheme to reengineer Haiti’s economic and social foundations.

On the other side are the critics, themselves social activists, veteran aid practitioners, and citizens deeply skeptical of the global aid industry. Critics contend that foreign aid rarely offers more than band-aid solutions to what are ultimately intractable structural problems such as unequal terms of trade, poor governance, and underdevelopment. They argue that development assistance itself is a pretext for pro-market and insidious geopolitical agendas.

But a middle way also exists. This middle way acknowledges Haiti’s specific historical patterns of inequality and the need for a rebuilding vision that is sensitive to these realities. Just as important, this view also highlights the importance of rebalancing a country that was teetering on disaster before the quake. 

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