Haiti's Prime Minister To End Clinton's Reconstruction Program

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Haiti earthquake panelPORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The businessman nominated to be Haiti’s next prime minister said Wednesday he wants to scrap the earthquake reconstruction commission co-chaired by former U.S. President Bill Clinton that has been criticized for its slow progress.

Daniel-Gerard Rouzier said the 27-member commission is “dysfunctional” and he would replace it with a new government agency.

“What I can tell you is that the (commission) as it exists today will not continue,” Rouzier said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t mean to crucify the people who came up with the concept. But sometimes when something doesn’t work you have to fix it.”

Rouzier, who is awaiting Senate confirmation of his nomination, did not provide details of his proposal for a new reconstruction agency. He said it would be more responsive to the needs of the Haitian people and still accountable to international donors.

He said he hopes Clinton, a special U.N. envoy to Haiti who has made many trips to the country to preside over commission meetings, will remain active in reconstruction from the January 2010 earthquake, which the government says killed more than 300,000 people as it left much of the capital in ruins.

“When you have someone of Clinton’s caliber — this is a man of tremendous vision we have to pick his brain and make sure that we have the right strategy,” Rouzier said.

A spokesman for Clinton and officials with the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The commission was established after the January 2010 earthquake because international donors wanted assurances that reconstruction would be orderly and free of the corruption that has long plagued Haiti. It includes representatives of the U.S. government, France, Japan and other members of the international community that have contributed the most toward rebuilding Haiti.

Clinton has been co-chairman along with Jean-Max Bellerive, the outgoing Haitian prime minister, presiding over long meetings to discuss the details of proposals to clear rubble, build housing and try to create jobs in a country that had severe problems long before the earthquake.

The commission has approved 86 projects that would require $3.2 billion in funding but Haiti does not yet have all the money and many people have complained about the lack of apparent progress.

A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office criticized the commission for delays in hiring staff, a lack of transparency and for not meeting reconstruction goals.

The commission’s mandate is scheduled to end in October but it could be renewed by the Haitian government.

Rouzier, ran a family-owned car dealership in Haiti and was a power company executive before he was nominated to be prime minister by newly elected President Michel Martelly. His criticism of the commission plays into long-standing resentment of foreign influence in Haiti and could help in his confirmation vote.

Joseph Lambert, a senator and coordinator of the Unity political party, which has a majority in the Senate, predicted that Rouzier would likely be approved.

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