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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The country took a drubbing last month from Hurricane Sandy as the storm passed to the west and caused widespread flooding. Officials said up to 54 people died and 70 percent of the country's crops in the south were lost.

The Haitian government and the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization said Tuesday that they need $74 million over the next year to help rehabilitate crops in Haiti.

Kim first came to Haiti as a Harvard medical student in 1987 and co-founded the community-focused Partners in Health with Paul Farmer. Kim left the group in 2003 to join the World Health Organization, where he was named director of the agency's HIV/AIDS department.

He was president of Dartmouth University when he was named president of the World Bank.

In a speech Tuesday night, Kim laid out two scenarios for Haiti's future.

The first, he said, was a relatively sluggish "status quo" path for which GDP growth hews to the 2 to 3 percent rate of the 2000s, with reconstruction muddling along. The second is a "transformational scenario" that brings together the government, business leaders, international agencies and others to accelerate economic growth.

Haiti is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with much of the wealth concentrated in the hands of a select few, the World Bank says. As much as 60 percent of the population is unemployed or underemployed.

"Haiti's economy cannot be built by and benefit just a privileged few," Kim told a crowd of diplomats, business leaders and development experts. "It must be built by and benefit all Haitians."

On Wednesday, Kim met with members of Haiti's private sector at a hotel. Then he and his entourage climbed into a waiting caravan, which passed through the grid-like streets once clogged with rubble.

"I expected the streets to still be full of debris," Kim said as the vehicle neared the World Bank office. "My goodness, things have happened here. I thought it would be a lot worse."

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