MONTREAL, Canada – Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe wants his government to have a greater say in how aid from Canada is spent.
Lamothe’s position comes in the wake of a decision by Ottawa to put a temporary halt on aid to the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.
Last week, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino announced that Ottawa would not fund any new programme in Haiti until it finds a better way of assisting the country help itself.
Fantino said he was disappointed at what he considered the lack of progress in Haiti during his trip to the Caribbean country last November.
Canada has provided C$1billion (one Canadian Dollar =US$1.01 cents) in development assistance to Haiti since 2006 and Fantino warned that Canadian taxpayers cannot take care of Haiti’s problems forever.
But in an interview with the Canadian Press, Lamothe said he was now urging Ottawa to allow his government to assume a bigger role in the decisions involved in rebuilding Haiti following the devastating earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people and left more than a million others homeless.
"For any future co-operation, when it's decided to resume, we will ask the Canadian government to focus on the priorities of the Haitian government.
"Basically, the development assistance, because of the perceived weakness of Haitian institutions, was routed directly to NGOs (non-government organisations) and Canadian firms,” he said, noting, “that weakened our institutions”.
Lamothe said that the earthquake on January 12, 2010, had destroyed 42 public buildings and caused damage estimated at US$12.5 billion.
In addition, Haiti has had to deal with an outbreak of cholera and natural disasters.
"For any country, that would be a great disaster, for Haiti, it was magnified by 50. So, we are struggling and we are doing our very best to improve the economy, to create jobs."
In a statement posted Tuesday on the website of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Fantino said Canada's goal is to help countries help themselves.
''Canada's assistance will not be a blank cheque,'' he said.
But Lamothe insists his government's hands are tied when it comes to development programmes because it doesn't receive any of CIDA's aid.
He is urging Canada and other donor countries to work together to find a way to involve Haiti's institutions in the process.
"It's very difficult for us to be held accountable for progress or lack thereof...we want the (Haitian) government to be consulted together (with Canada) and we'll do it in a transparent process... so that the Canadian taxpayer dollar is maximised to the best possible way."