Another US objective, especially before the donors meeting, is to demonstrate to a skeptical world that the Haitian government – heavily criticized for its sluggish response after the quake – is operating effectively and capable of managing a significant reconstruction program. (Monitor report: Test for US, Obama in Haiti earthquake response.)
Préval is keenly aware of the importance for him and for Haiti that he appears to be in command – prepared to administer a program that meets Haitian priorities and international demands, say experts in the region and natural-disaster response.
“He needs to have his priority list in his hands when he walks into the Oval Office,” says Johanna Mendelson Forman, a senior associate with the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Countering the criticism Préval and the Haitian government have endured since the earthquake, Ms. Forman says, “He’s been moving things behind the scenes in an effective way.” But, she adds, “He also needs to get out front so people see something from the leadership.”
Judging from comments Préval made before departing Haiti for Washington, he does have some definite ideas on how assistance to Haiti should proceed.
He says the emergency phase of recovery is over, and that continued food aid will only disrupt Haiti’s economy. Better to focus on seeds and fertilizers so people can be employed while food is grown locally, he says. At the same time, assisting agriculture would boost the government’s plans to decentralize the population and the economy outside of an overcrowded Port-au-Prince.