World Bank head holds out hope for Haiti

Associated Press Modified: November 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm •  Published: November 7, 2012
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — It was a whirlwind tour for World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who helicoptered from the grounds of the demolished National Palace to his old stomping grounds in central Haiti where he once treated the rural poor as a doctor.

Then he flew off to visit a power plant north of Port-au-Prince and then spoke at a conference on poverty at a hotel that like the presidential palace down the hill is being rebuilt following its implosion in the 2010 earthquake.

Kim's two-day trip to Haiti was no routine drop-in for the head of an international organization. This one carried special significance for Kim, a physician and anthropologist who is regarded for his pioneering work in development because of his ties to the Boston-based Partners in Health.

Disaster-prone Haiti and unbridled optimism are unlikely bedfellows, but Kim saw reasons to be sunny.

"Despite the earthquake, despite the hurricanes, despite the enormous obstacles that Haiti always seems to face, I think there's more hope today than I have seen in a very long time," Kim told The Associated Press as a Toyota Land Cruiser hurried him to his next appointment.

This was Kim's first trip to Latin America and the Caribbean since he became president of the World Bank in July, and he came to figure out how the international institution can help Haiti rebuild from the earthquake that displaced more than a million people and destroyed thousands of buildings. One of his stops was at a new, state-of-the-art public hospital built in the Central Plateau by Partners in Health.

Kim and President Michel Martelly signed agreements for $125 million for two projects. The first one, for $90 million, aims to increase the power supply for 600,000 people in urban and rural areas. The second, for $35 million, seeks to finance a debris management site along with an air safety navigation system at the international airport.

The World Bank will also be offering a year's rent for 60,000 people displaced by the quake for the next 15 months along with vocational training, Kim announced.

His visit came as Haiti stumbles from yet another, though smaller, set back.

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