Already Prime Minister Patrick Manning has expressed his concern over the tragedy and Trinidad and Tobago is expected to respond with offers of aid to a fellow Caribbean State, not merely from the Government but from private sector and voluntary agencies as well. Should the normal pattern be followed this should include agencies such as the Red Cross and organisations such as the Rotary and Lions. Already the San Juan Rotary Club is involved.
Canned food, hospital supplies, tents, building materials and equipment, PVC pipes, clothes and footwear will be among items immediately required. Additionally, there will clearly be the need for backhoes to clear roads and areas made impassable by the earthquake.
Whatever the official and unofficial response, however, clearly aid is needed urgently as initial reports have stated that many buildings, including Haiti’s Presidential Palace, homes, Government offices, businesses and even a hospital have collapsed or been severely damaged by the earthquake. In addition, there have been reports of powerful aftershocks. What has made the quake so severe is that it was centred a mere ten miles west of Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince, at a depth of five miles.
Haiti’s neighbour, the Dominican Republic, with which it shares the island of Hispaniola has not been as adversely affected. Any earthquake of that magnitude has the potential to impact negatively on an area so close to its centre. But this has been made all the worse for the Caribbean country and increased the difficulty of recovery since Haiti with an estimated population of 8.4 million has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of approximately US$2.7 billion and a GDP per capita of US$325.30.
This is in distinct contrast to that of the Dominican Republic with a marginally larger population of some 8.8 million had a 2006/2007 GDP in excess of US$15.9 billion and a GDP per capita of US$1,827. All of this adds up to aid as quickly as possible to assist Haiti, with an uncomfortably large percentage of its population either, unemployed or underemployed, to rebuild.
While, understandably, as noted earlier, there are immediate areas of assistance which need to be addressed, nevertheless regional and international aid, including aid from Trinidad and Tobago should take into account the necessity of placing Haiti on a stronger footing.
Admittedly, the provision of food and medical supplies along with that of the rebuilding of housing, schools and hospitals should be regarded as priorities. However aid for Haiti should not simply be short term but medium and long term as well. For example, assistance provided should also seek to stimulate Haiti’s agriculture and tourism industries. In addition, the provision of skills training should be included for the development of other industries.
While, the continuing global economic downturn may result in much less international aid being available to Haiti as would have been the case, perhaps five years ago, we hope that special note is taken of the country’s almost chronically impoverished state. Haitians should be heartened though by the concern expressed by US President Barack Obama, who has indicated that his government is monitoring the situation and was standing ready to assist in the coming days.
Newsday, joins with the rest of Trinidad and Tobago, Caricom and other countries in expressing sympathy to the Haitian government and people for Tuesday’s disaster and hopes that Haiti is able to recover as quickly as possible.