Dominican Republic & Haiti Development: Long-Form Essay
Since its inception under President JFK, the United States Agency for International Development also known as USAID has had on going development projects in the Dominican Republic and Haiti to help develop their government, economy and improve their standard of living. The United States government funds USAID and guarantees a budget of approximately 35 billion each year according to USAID’s reports as a part of official U.S. Foreign Policy. The United States has declared international development a long with many other world affairs, a part of their foreign initiative and essentially a goal under the official foreign policy for our country to promote trade and equality. However, the majority of international development projects in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have failed or severely struggling under the oversight of USAID within the past decade. Why are the majority of development projects funded by USAID in the Dominican Republic and Haiti struggling or failing, if the United States is giving them the money and resources to initiate sustainable development within their individual country’s economy, government and urban neighborhoods? Essentially, USAID is poorly planning development projects which is causing the money being funded to be spent poorly. USAID’s failure and neglect to provide the proper planning, funding and resources for development projects in the Dominican Republic and Haiti has caused both countries economies to grow slowly and in small pockets.
The reason the projects are failing is mostly due to poor fiscal planning and overall execution of development projects within the region. The fact the projects struggle to achieve sustainability also stems from the imperialistic views USAID in general has on developing countries that they work in. USAID’s employees and administration have a presumptive idea of what these countries need without consulting the people being affected. Because of this, millions of dollars funded by the United States have been either wasted or unwisely invested into non-governmental organizations and private contractors. The issue at hand is that USAID and the organizations they partner with are more concerned with their own individual organization’s finances rather than the finances of the projects they are investing in in Dominican Republic and Haiti. In a sense, the well being of these developing countries takes the backseat so to speak to the agenda of USAID. However, when an organization’s sole job is to invest and develop poor countries and that is not their main focus, the organization is failing to do the job they are being paid to do. Poor fiscal planning and poor execution of development projects does not allow nor promote healthy growth within these poor countries economies and governments.
When looking at the overall progress USAID has made in developing the Dominican Republic and Haiti, it is evidently clear that some situations such as the earthquake in 2010 were unforeseen and unpreventable. However, USAID responded to the earthquake with poorly managed relief and reconstruction projects, which is an accurate representation of how they have responded to failing development projects in the past. After the earthquake, USAID received 379 million dollars for relief and reconstruction for Haiti from the United States. However, according to Quigley (2012), “thirty three cents of each of these US dollars for Haiti was actually given directly back to the US to reimburse ourselves for sending in our military. The US almost totally bypassed the elected government of Haiti and sent less than a penny of each dollar of aid to the government. Forty two cents of each dollar went to private and public non-governmental organizations like Save the Children, the UN World Food Program and the Pan American Health Organization”. Quigley conveys that of the hundreds of millions of dollars USAID received, a large chunk of it went to waste on transportation and the U.S. military’s involvement and another large portion went to NGOs, which left 1% of 379 million or 3.7 million dollars for the Haitian government to provide for its people. Failure to follow through with planned funding and failure to build the amount of houses promised are common issues within Dominican and Haitian development projects funded by USAID.
Although development projects in the Dominican Republic have been lacking as well, the Dominican government and economy is in a far better place than when USAID originally began doing work. That being said, it is easy to compare the two countries and state that the Dominican Republic was given proper funding and Haiti was not. The Dominican Republic was already farther ahead in terms of their economy and government when USAID began initial work on the island. Haiti is a poor country in which most of the country’s people are struggling. In the Dominican Republic there has been a small group of elite, wealthy people who own the large corporations and factories that the country rely heavily on for exports which has generated revenue for the government. Since USAID began work they have established a somewhat stable middle class in order to combat the fact there was a large gap between the rich and poor. While doing development work in the Dominican Republic, I witnessed first hand the immense gap between the rich and the poor. Less than a mile outside the country’s main mall in Santo Domingo which looks no different than a mall in the USA from the inside, lies the poor, poverty stricken city of Cielo where the people just recently got access to clean water systems and families still struggle to obtain housing and care for their families. According to the Dominican government (2014), 20% of their citizens are living in extreme poverty, which is defined by life-threatening living conditions. The reason these people are stuck in these poor living conditions is due to the country’s unproductive Agriculture market leaving many poor people without a job. Furthermore, the Dominican economy is already spread thin trying to fund too many aspects of the country with very little money. And seeing as the Haitian government received only 1% of the money for relief and reconstruction after the earthquake in 2010, I doubt the Dominican government received anymore than their neighboring country. According to the World Bank (2012), the Dominican Republic’s GDP per capita increased from 3000 to 9000 and Haiti’s GDP per capita flatlined at 1000 from 1990 to 2010. Even though the Dominican Republic’s GDP increased, they report the roughly the same amount of people in poverty as they did in 1990. Their economy expanded but only to the benefit of the rich and the growing middle-class. The people living in poverty, the ones who actually should be receiving funding are being neglected. The fact Haiti’s GDP has essentially not increased at all in 20 years is appalling given the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent to boost their economy.
The disconnect between USAID and the developing countries it aims to help are not only wasting U.S. taxpayer’s money but it also only further damaging developing countries such as the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The United States government provides hundreds of millions of dollars each year for USAID to invest in poor countries like the Dominican Republic and Haiti yet hardly ever consider what each individual country’s government and people truly need. Coupled with poor planning, an imperialistic attitude results in failed development projects and unsustainable developments. Contrary to popular belief, even though these countries are poor the majority of these developing country’s heads of state do have their people’s best interest in mind. USAID needs to work the Dominican and Haitian government in a partnership with clear communication between the two parties regarding planning and funding rather than USAID pushing what they think is best onto their government and people. As a U.S. citizen, the only real action we can take in order to make a difference would be to vote against new propositions that would increase spending in the upcoming elections and writing a letter to your representative in congress. Seeing as USAID was incorporated as a part of U.S. Foreign Policy under President Kennedy, it would be nearly impossible to get the United States to stop providing money to USAID to invest in developing countries altogether. However, the real power to make a change lies within us, the people. The American people must make it a point to stand up against this debilitating cycle in order to see real change within the infrastructure of USAID and how they operate in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The American people must put their foot down and demand better oversight on USAID’s finances and operations in order to set a precedent for future projects in developing countries around the world.
International Monetary Fund.(2013, January 30). GROWTH, EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL COHESION IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. Retrieved May 2, 2016, from https://www.imf.org/external/country/DOM/rr/2013/013113.pdf
Quigley, W. P. (2012, January 4). Haiti: Where is the Money? — Researcher Version. Retrieved May 7, 2016, fromhttp://www.haitiaction.net/News/BQ/1_4_12/1_4_12.html