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Haiti Seeks $1 Billion in Development Aid - 2004-07-13

The World Bank says it needs pledges of more than $900 million in aid for Haiti.

A rebel uprising earlier this year in Haiti caused the president to flee and the country to slide into anarchy. A multinational peacekeeping force restored order.

Now, an interim Haiti government has developed an economic recovery program that has won support from the United States, the European Union and World Bank.

Caroline Anstey, the World Bank's country director for the Caribbean, says the new government is determined to create 35,000 new jobs by September. Most of the jobs will be in public works, such as clearing away garbage and repairing roads.

"I think that the government is very committed to making sure that by the time schools open in September children can go to school, they can have books, they can have uniforms, that hot meals are available," she said. "They are committed to a rapid employment program between now and September."

Ms. Anstey says progress has been made in the capital, Port au Prince, which has electricity for nine hours a day instead of the two hours it was available just three months ago.

Haiti's development needs are enormous, but its capacity to absorb assistance is limited. Like many developing countries, previous aid programs were largely ineffective as money was stolen or never made its way to hungry people.

Donors provided Haiti with $2.5 billion during the previous decade.

Ms. Anstey says the goals now are more modest and donors have learned from past mistakes. She believes there is a window of opportunity in Haiti before parliamentary and presidential elections next year and in 2006.

Barbara Szaszkiewicz of the Inter-American Development Bank says her multilateral institution has invested $300 million in Haiti.

"What we have done with this support is not only implement our program, but open and pave the way for a broader donor re-engagement and keep the institutions running until the additional support from this important new initiative arrives," she said.

Two thirds of Haiti's eight million people live in poverty. Life expectancy is only 53 years and per capita income is $353 a year.