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Bill Clinton for President…of Haiti?

The Economist leader on Haiti:

investment {should}  be targeted on infrastructure, basic services and combating soil erosion to make farmers more productive and the country less vulnerable to hurricanes.

The pressing question is who should do it and how. Haiti’s government is in no position to take charge, yet the country needs a strong government to put it to rights. Paul Collier, a development economist who worked on the plan, reckons that the answer is to set up a temporary development authority with wide powers to act.

Given the local vacuum of power, this is the best idea around. The authority should be set up under the auspices of the UN or of an ad hoc group (the United States, Canada, the European Union and Brazil, for example). It should be led by a suitable outsider (Bill Clinton, who is the UN’s special envoy for Haiti, would be ideal…

If this doesn’t strike you as misguided on too many levels to count, then … I give up.

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  1. Lynnae Etta wrote:

    Don’t give up! Say what you will about Bill Clinton’s leadership abilities, but I’m highly skeptical of The Economist and Paul Collier’s suggestion of a governmental take-over myself! Regardless of the Haitian government’s capacity to lead at the moment, it would completely delegitimize any authority they might have had before the quake. It’s a completely misguided (maybe well-intentioned?) recommendation.

    Posted January 24, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Permalink
  2. DF wrote:

    Collier wants to give control of Haiti to some industrial country. I wonder what the UN Committee on Decolonization would have to say about that. Or is this supposed to be a UN Trust Territory?

    Posted January 24, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink
  3. Worked for Hong Kong–outsiders running the government. Of the top 8 economically freest countries, only one (Switzerland) is not a former British colony. A quarter of the top 20 countries on the UN Human Development Index are former British colonies, as are almost a third of the top 30 countries. These may be rough measures, but something is going on.

    In Australia, if a local council becomes too corrupt or otherwise dysfunctional, it is sacked and an administrator appointed.

    Getting an outsider (podesta) to run your city was something Italian city-states did in the medieval period. Of course, it was a contractual arrangement between those being ruled and the (temporary) ruler.

    Surely, part of the problem with aid is the lack of accountability due to divided responsibilities. If you are actually in charge, what happens becomes your responsibility. If some mechanism was applied which tied that responsibility to outcomes (perhaps regular votes by Haitians grading performance) why could it not work?

    Though Mayor Bloomberg may be more the sort of figure one is after. Or Colin Powell perhaps?

    Posted January 25, 2010 at 1:32 am | Permalink
  4. another brillian idea from Paulo Coelho. lorenzo, sound logic there, do send us your CV, you could be a HRI consultant, maybe with our Former British Colonies (FBC) desk.

    Posted January 25, 2010 at 5:17 am | Permalink
  5. amber lung wrote:

    please don’t give up. please.

    Posted January 25, 2010 at 6:35 am | Permalink
  6. Thomas U. wrote:

    Bill Clinton???
    The Clinton administration played a very obscure role in removing and reinstalling President Aristide. How is it even possible to think about giving B. Clinton any power over Haiti?

    Posted January 25, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink
  7. Zionboy777 wrote:

    When I raised this concern with some folks down here in South Africa, they all cried out because I was not meant to criticize a “BLACK” US president.

    When I saw Obama between Bush and Clinton, I screamed like a mad cow… These 2 people are the reason HAiti was set in such a state of mess… What are the REAL americans intention on Haiti?

    I smelled a rat when they owned the airport and kept Preval under some kind of house arrest.

    Posted January 25, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink
  8. Matt wrote:

    “These 2 people are the reason HAiti was set in such a state of mess”

    Wow. Calling this simplistic would be the understatement of the century.

    Posted January 25, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  9. Didier wrote:

    Didn’t the US/UN already get to run the country….twice? Maybe the third time’s the charm. I say we subject Collier’s plan to an open bidding process. Maybe the Canadians could do it better or the French want to try again!

    Posted January 25, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink
  10. Nadir Q wrote:


    I’m really stunned that the Economist of all magazines would suggest something like this.

    Almost as unforgivable as their support for the Iraq war.


    Posted January 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink
  11. Michael wrote:

    Sorry but I have to side with Collier on this one…Haiti was and is a basket-case and you maybe can make yourself feel better by believing they can manage their own development at this point but then I would say you had better get on a plane and go down there…the only successful Haitians are either the super corrupt ones who have only one-foot in the country or the ones who have gotten two feet out. What they need is a functioning institutional framework run by people who are competent and honest. If you can make that happen without foreigners then by all means send in the list of names and their cv’s…I agree that Bill Clinton would be a bad choice but there are several international civil servants ala Sergio Vieira de Mello of East Timor fame who might take on the job….pretending that the Haitians can do it themselves at this point in a scenario where we pour in billions but don’t ask questions is ludicrous.

    Posted January 25, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  12. Robert Tulip wrote:

    Go Bill! (Clinton that is). Failed states like Haiti are not capable of democracy. They need an authoritarian government working in the public interest. The United Nations should take over Haiti and run it as a protectorate until such time as the Security Council deems the nation capable of effective self-rule. This is not colonialism but recognition of the real interests of the people of Haiti. The local forces operating against sound governance are too strong to ever offer hope of development through democracy, as they can easily corrupt the electoral process.

    Posted January 26, 2010 at 5:02 am | Permalink
  13. Justin wrote:

    I am often offended by the Economist but William’s post here is a cut and paste of the items in the article that he does not like. It may be a bad idea, but it is not as bad as the post above suggests.

    Posted January 26, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  14. Nadir Q wrote:

    “The United Nations should take over Haiti and run it as a protectorate until such time as the Security Council deems the nation capable of effective self-rule. This is not colonialism but recognition of the real interests of the people of Haiti.”

    This is exactly the sort of thing colonialists have done for the past 500 years.

    It’s never worked.

    Posted January 27, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  15. Robert Tulip wrote:

    “This is exactly the sort of thing colonialists have done for the past 500 years.”

    Colonialism ran countries in the economic interest of the colonial power. Haiti needs an external authority that can run the country in Haiti’s own interest, as its political system is too dysfunctional to deliver good governance. Otherwise billions of dollars will continue to be wasted through debt relief and charity without any hope of putting Haiti on its own feet.

    Haiti’s crisis is an opportunity to establish a path to prosperity. Paul Collier’s book The Bottom Billion correctly notes that the vicious circle of extreme poverty in failed states requires a circuit-breaker, through military guarantees of sound governance. Haiti’s history of corruption and squalor means that only an externally imposed authority can have the vision and power to set the nation on a path towards joining the community of independent nations. Making democracy into a fetish condemns Haiti to hopelessness. The world has moved on from the days when external intervention was just economic exploitation by metropolitan powers. Today, Haiti’s failure is a real security problem, and its economic and social development requires conversion into a UN-World Bank protectorate.

    Posted January 27, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink
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    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

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