According to new a study from the RAND Corporation, Haiti's future prosperity depends on its ability to build a more resilient state capable of providing public services such as education and health care and responding effectively to natural disasters.
Sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Smith Richardson Foundation, the study, Building a More Resilient Haitian State (209 pages, PDF), found that most plans and proposals to rebuild Haiti in the wake of the earthquake that devastated the country in January have been overly broad in scope and too ambitious in their objectives. Moroever, they fail to set priorities or lay out a sequence for introducing changes.
After consulting with representatives of the Haitian government and people working in the country's private and public sectors, RAND researchers determined that Haiti and international donors should focus their recovery efforts on public administration, justice, security, economic policy, infrastructure, education, and health care. To that end, the report argues, the first steps should be identifying the state's core functions — with a focus on those that promote security, stability, and economic growth — establishing top priorities, and creating a set of deadlines and responsibilities.
The report urges international donors to work with the Haitian government to create a modern civil service and make the removal of rubble the most important priority for ongoing reconstruction efforts; calls on the Haitian government to eliminate unnecessary procedures involved in registering businesses and property and to focus on monitoring and regulating the delivery of education and health services (rather than providing those services itself); and recommends that major donor governments — including the United States — submit all project and program concepts to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.
"State-building may not have the same appeal to international donors as erecting new buildings, but it's got to be done if Haiti is to successfully rebuild itself," said RAND senior economist Keith Crane, a co-author of the study. "International donors have poured billions into Haiti, but they have not focused on creating sustainable institutions to provide a payoff from those investments."