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World Bank and Haiti Development

October 26, 1994

Four weeks ago I spent more than an hour with Lisa McGowan explaining, among other things, the inaccuracies in her assessment that donors were imposing a development plan on President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his government. I explained to her what the World Bank, specifically, would fund in support of Haiti's effort to reconstruct the Haitian economy and reduce poverty. In the light of that conversation, I am frankly disappointed to read her commentary, which is inaccurate ("Forcing a Deal With the Devil," Commentary, Oct. 4).

The World Bank increasingly seeks ways to encourage participation of local people and beneficiaries in the projects it finances because projects designed by participants and beneficiaries are known to be better in quality, effectiveness and sustainability. Just last month the bank released a report documenting its experience in participatory development, the benefits realized, and identified plans to strengthen participation in the projects it funds even more in the future.

In the case of Haiti, a World Bank credit will finance an ongoing, demand-driven, anti-poverty program that was suspended at the time of the military coup in 1991. The program includes funding for rural health centers, water supply and sewerage disposal systems, primary schools and rural farm-to-market roads--all of which the people of Haiti will design. The program is like a social investment fund. Local people can apply to the fund for the things they need most.

I should reiterate what I told McGowan: There is no World Bank program imposed on Haiti. There is an "economic and social reconstruction strategy," which was developed by President Aristide and his administration while in exile and which has gained broad support from a consortium of friendly countries and international donors, including the World Bank. That strategy does not include funding for export agriculture that will benefit the rich as McGowan claims. On the contrary, it provides funding for small-holder farmers. And the overall strategy has a strong anti-poverty bias.


Latin America and the Caribbean

Regional Office

World Bank, Washington

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