As part of the country's "Reconstruction", The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund recently invested $2 million in the Royal Oasis Hotel, a deluxe structure to be built in a poverty-stricken metropolitan area "filled with displaced-persons camps housing hundreds of thousands”. Royal Oasis belongs to a Haitian investment group (SCIOP SA) and will be managed by the Spanish chain Occidental Hotels & Resorts.
AP reported in April that funds raised by the former US Presidents to help the neediest Haitians are now being used to build a hotel for "rich foreigners" including tourists as well many foreign NGO "aid workers" currently in Haiti. (Daniel Trenton, AP: New hotels arise amid ruins in Haitian capital, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, April 29, 2012)
In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, people in the US, Canada and the EU, who made donations to those humanitarian organizations and NGOs did not realize that their contribution to Haiti's reconstruction would be channelled towards the building of five star hotels to house foreign businessmen. Their expectation was that the money would be used to provide food and housing for the Haitian people.
The Royal Oasis as well as other hotel projects totaling over $100 million are, according to AP, “raising hopes that thousands of [foreign] investors will soon fill their air-conditioned rooms looking to build factories and tourist infrastructure” (emphasis added)
FOREIGN AID: WHO BENEFITS?
Foreign “aid” often benefits NGOs of the donor country as well as the local business elites in the recipient country. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has blamed both Bill Clinton as well previous U.S. presidents for having maintained Haiti in conditions of "endemic poverty through a self-serving U.S. rice export policy […] By 2003, approximately 80% of all rice consumed in Haiti was imported from the United States.” (Leah Chavla, Bill Clinton’s Heavy Hand on Haiti’s Vulnerable Agricultural Economy: The American Rice Scandal, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, April 13, 2010.)
Last January iWatch News reported:
According to [U.S] government figures, 1,537 contracts had been awarded [to U.S. Companies] for a total of $204,604,670, as of last fall. Only 23 of the contracts went to Haitian companies, totaling $4,841,426. (Marjorie Valbrun, Haitian firms few and far between on reconstruction rosters, iWatch News, January 11, 2012.)
The project promoter, Jerry Tardieu told AP “the new hotels will help more people get out of the camps by giving them jobs to pay for rent on homes being rehabilitated by government and non-profit organizations.”
Meanwhile, most Haitians live in overcrowded camps such as Champ de Mars camp in Port-au-Prince, “densely packed with shacks made from bed sheets, tarpaulin and scrap metal, which provide flimsy shelter for some 17,000 people.” Forced evictions also take place regularly, according to AlertNet. (Anastasia Moloney, Haiti's homeless face housing lottery, AlertNet, February 23, 2012.)
THE ROLE OF THE RED CROSS
The AP report confirms that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) bought land for $10.5 million and are also thinking of building a hotel:
“The money came from donations raised by national Red Cross agencies for quake recovery, causing some to wonder if the money would be better used to house displaced people rather than aid workers.” (AP, op. cit, emphasis added).
Millions of people in the US, Canada and Western Europe donated part of their savings to their local Red Cross, which was then channelled to the IFRC, the world's largest humanitarian umbrella organization. The IFRC claims to be "providing assistance without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions." (See IFRC website, emphasis added)
This land purchase by IFRC not only violates its humanitarian mandate but also the trust of its constituent Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations worldwide.
"Most people who have lost their homes through a disaster want to repair or rebuilt their homes as soon as possible. Many start the reconstruction process immediately after a disaster, whenever circumstances and resources permit. Shelter assistance provided by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) recognizes this, and where appropriate prioritizes the provision of materials, tools, cash and technical assistance to support the process."
According to the AP report: "Signs of Haiti's comeback can also be seen in the 105-room Best Western hotel being built within blocks of shanty-covered hillsides." The five star Best Western project is worth $15.7 million and is located in the plush city of Petionville. The “first US hotel in Haiti” is funded by local investors but will be managed by a Dallas firm and is expected to create 150 jobs. (Ibid.)
Will there be enough jobs for them in the hotel industry?
Will the salaries be high enough to pay the rent?
A lot of unanswered questions remain.
Julie Lévesque is a journalist and researcher with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal. She was among the first independent journalists to visit Haiti in the immediate wake of the January 2010 earthquake.