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IMF chief Strauss-Kahn calls for 'Marshall Plan' to rebuild Haiti

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, called on Wednesday for a multilateral strategy for the reconstruction of Haiti similar to the "Marshall Plan" that rebuilt Europe after the Second World War.

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AFP - IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn urged Wednesday a multilateral aid plan for earthquake-ravaged Haiti like the US "Marshall Plan" that rebuilt Europe after World War II.

"My belief is that Haiti -- which has been incredibly hit by different things: the food and fuel prices crisis, then the hurricane, then the earthquake -- needs something that is big," the managing director of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund said.

"Not only a piecemeal approach, but something which is much bigger to deal with the reconstruction of the country -- some kind of a Marshall Plan that we need now to implement for Haiti," he said, referring to the US initiative launched in 1947 to rebuild war-ravaged western Europe.
   

The international community is gearing up for a coordinated drive to help rebuild the poorest country in the western hemisphere, even as the primary focus remains on rescue and relief efforts after the massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12.

Officials fear as many as 200,000 people were killed in the quake that reduced most of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince to rubble and impacted an estimated three million people, one third of the country's population.

Haitian officials said Tuesday that 250,000 people were injured and a million were left homeless.

"The urgency, today, is to save the people. The urgency, in some weeks, will be the reconstruction," Strauss-Kahn said.

The IMF last Thursday promised an interest-free loan of 100 million dollars in initial emergency funds to the Haitian government to support essential activities and finance urgent imports.
   

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The IMF loan has drawn criticism for adding to the debt burden of Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

"The most important thing is that the IMF is now working with all donors to try to delete all the Haitian debt, including our new loan," the former French Socialist finance minister said.

Strauss-Kahn recalled that the IMF had no immediate way to make a grant.

"If we succeed -- and I'm sure we will succeed -- even this loan will turn out to be finally a grant, because all the debt will have been deleted. And that's the very important thing for Haiti now."

The IMF and the World Bank classify Haiti among "heavily indebted poor countries" eligible for debt forgiveness. The Caribbean nation was granted 1.2 billion dollars in debt relief last June.

More than 1.2 billion dollars has been pledged in aid funding for Haiti, according to United Nations data, and the idea of a "Marshall Plan" appeared to be gaining traction.
   

Denis O'Brien, head of Irish telecommunications firm Digicel and Haiti's biggest foreign investor, said recently that he was working alongside former US president Bill Clinton on a such a plan to rebuild quake-ravaged Haiti.

"Obviously we need foreign direct investment but on a wider front we need a Marshall Plan," O'Brien said.

Canada will host a donors conference Monday in Montreal to discuss Haiti's reconstruction efforts and prepare for a donors meeting in March.

The donors' summit to help the former French colony had been proposed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will also deliver the opening address at the 40th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) next week in Davos, Switzerland.

Organizers said the Haitian crisis would be a major theme at the five-day meeting opening Wednesday, expected to draw 2,500 leaders from more than 90 countries, including Clinton.
   

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"We want to use Davos to solicit commitments of our partners, members and constituents in the form of practical help for relief of the continued pain of Haiti's people and particularly for the reconstruction of Haiti," Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and executive chairman, said Wednesday.

"We hope that we can present a major common effort to the world community showing true corporate global citizenship in Davos," he said.

The rebuilding of Haiti, which already was in dire straits before the horrific earthquake, poses tough challenges, not least a notoriously weak rule of law that could result in wasted aid dollars.

The Caribbean nation ranks among the top 10 most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International.

Asked how resources should be prioritized in order to rebuild the country, Strauss-Kahn said: "We need to work with the government to see exactly how -- from their point of view and from our point of view -- things can be done."

 

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