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Haitian Prime Minister Discusses Earthquake Recovery, Education and Corruption

Aired January 27, 2010 - 15:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: It has been a tragedy of biblical proportions. First, the ground split open, and next, the rains may come. And tonight, a desperate plea for tents, for shelter. Plus, an exclusive interview and some shocking revelations from Haiti's prime minister.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to our program.

What's rapidly shaping up to be a huge and major concern here is the fate of Haiti's children. According to UNICEF and other NGOs here, hundreds of thousands may be cut adrift, separated from their parents since the earthquake, and simply wandering around with no help, with no aid.

Now, Haitian families, no matter desperate, are looking after some of them, even if they're not their own, but by and large, officials here are very, very concerned. They're only just trying now to set up some kind of registry to monitor and account for some of those children, and they're very concerned about their trauma, about their welfare, about their shelter, and even about predators. And you will hear some shocking revelations on that score later from the Haitian prime minister.

But, of course, adding to the children's plight is the fact that the education system is in total collapse. So many schools, universities, colleges destroyed during the earthquake and still closed down, as I discovered here in Port-au-Prince.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Joseph has come to buy flowers. He needs them for his cousin's funeral wreath.

"The earthquake crushed the house," he says. "And my cousin was under the rubble."

Joseph tells us that 19-year-old Gerard (ph) was a college student studying economics. He was part of Haiti's future, which is now practically flattened beneath buildings like these. Half the country's schools, colleges and the main universities have been destroyed or badly damaged.

DOMINIQUE HURTOUD, EDUCATOR: Many, many training and university schools collapsed on -- on their youth. And those students were -- they were the...

AMANPOUR (on-screen): The hope of the future.

HURTOUD: Yes, the next generation coming up to work in society.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Dominique Hurtoud is an educator, now volunteering at one of the capital's teeming hospitals. And so are these three school girls. They're sorting boxes of food, supplies and medicines that are pouring in now.

Jessica's 11. She says that this work makes her feel good, like she's helping her country. But she can't wait for her private school to open up again and to find her friends, her teachers, and her peace of mind.

JESSICA VIEUX, VOLUNTEER: I can't see all those things.

AMANPOUR (on-screen): Which things?

VIEUX: People that are suffering, dying, crying, those kind of things.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Suddenly, children are helping the wounded or they're wounded themselves, or else they're sticking close to their injured parents. There's no relief for their pain and stress. There are no classes now. Indeed, their whole school system was traumatized even before the earthquake.

The U.N. says about half of Haiti's children attended primary school and fewer than 2 percent finished secondary school. Public schools are practically non-existent, so 90 percent of Haiti's schools are private or parochial, with little accountability for what they teach.

HURTOUD: Most of the schoolteachers are not teachers. They're just - - and we even have teachers that are barely literate.

AMANPOUR: Nearly 40 percent of adults here are illiterate, and yet Haitians value education, and officials say that it must be at the heart of the country's recovery, a dialogue that public and private educators were having just before the quake struck.


AMANPOUR: And this morning, I spoke to the Haitian, prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive. He said that, if possible, he was aiming to have as many classes as possible open by Monday. We'll wait to see whether that, in fact, happens.

He was in his office at the police headquarters which is near the airport now. As you know, the government buildings, ministries collapsed, and they've had to move and shift over to a makeshift temporary headquarters.

He was having a meeting with some Haitian-Americans, actually, but that's where he has all his meetings, and we were setting up as he was doing that.

I sat down with him, and I spoke and asked him about many things, about the state of the relief effort, about the danger of the children.


Listen to what he told us.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Bellerive, thank you so much for joining us.


AMANPOUR: We're in your cabinet room here?

BELLERIVE: Generally, it's the biggest room here, so when we have...

AMANPOUR: In the police station.


AMANPOUR: And you've just had meetings?

BELLERIVE: In the morning, we have a meeting with all the international community, every morning at 8:00. So we meet outside, because it's too -- it's too much people. They won't fit here.

AMANPOUR: What is the biggest challenge right now? We're still seeing that not enough food and water is getting to the people.

BELLERIVE: It's still -- it's still coordination, because it's not -- we don't have enough food or water. It's how we distribute it, and there is a lot of factors to that.

AMANPOUR: What do you mean by "coordination"? Between who and who?

BELLERIVE: Between the -- first, between the donors themselves, and after that, between the donors and the operators, because, for example, the USAID has several operators here to distribute the food that they bring to Haiti. And after that, between the international community and the government. And that's -- that's at least three level of coordination, and each of them brings its own problem.

AMANPOUR: So -- so there's just not enough coordination amongst all the people who are meant to bring in this aid?

BELLERIVE: There is a will. There is a will, but it's very complicated, because everyone has its own procedures, has its own concern. For example, some of them have the concern of security. Even if there is no problem with security right now, there are some procedures that it cannot deliver without actually some -- a staff, a convoy...

AMANPOUR: And armed guards.


AMANPOUR: So even when there's no problem, that's the bureaucracy.


AMANPOUR: And that's slowing down the delivery.

BELLERIVE: Clearly. And we have a problem of stockage...

AMANPOUR: Stockage and storage.

BELLERIVE: ... storage, also, because people are bringing food, bringing food, bringing food. We have to store it at the airport. And sometimes it's bringing more problems, because we don't know exactly where is that type of cargo. We had the logistical problem the first day, and it was not really registered.

AMANPOUR: So you didn't know where things were.


AMANPOUR: What is the government doing? We've seen now a lot of international donors delivering as much food as they can. It is slow. But what are you doing? Are you going out, your government, to deliver food?

BELLERIVE: Yes. So what they're doing -- we have a system here normally for small crises. It's under the direction of the Ministry of Interior. And we have a direction of civil protection.

And normally, if we have a crisis that we can handle, they are supposed to have reserves to bring food, to bring water, to bring help to the people, and some level of health-related assistance.

But it's too much for us now. So we are doing what we can at that -- in that level. And mainly what we are doing is trying to coordinate and to know what is -- because a lot of things are arriving.

And I take that opportunity, really, to thank -- to thank everybody in the United States and Canada and France and everywhere. Everybody is sending things to Haiti. They're sending money; they're sending food; they're sending whatever, even Pampers for -- for the children.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me talk about the children.


AMANPOUR: The children, tens of thousands of them, maybe hundreds of thousands, have been separated from their families, many of them, family's dead, family's lost, family's moved out.

What is being done to corral these children, to register them, to make sure no further harm comes to them?

BELLERIVE: It's one of the biggest problems that we have. And this morning, during the coordination meeting with international community, addressed the question of their adoption, because I have a lot of petitions for that. But they have to be very prudent, because...

AMANPOUR: They have to be what?

BELLERIVE: Cautious, because there is a lot of traffic in that -- in those...


AMANPOUR: You mean illegal child trafficking?

BELLERIVE: Yes, even if it -- it seems to be legal, but a lot of organizations -- they come, and they say there were children on the streets who are going to bring them to the states, and we have already reports of a lot of trafficking, even of organ trafficking.

AMANPOUR: Of organ trafficking?



BELLERIVE: Now, already.

AMANPOUR: Of the victims of the earthquake?


AMANPOUR: Do you know that for sure?

BELLERIVE: Yeah, I know that for sure. And it was discussed in Montreal during the conference.

AMANPOUR: And do you know for sure that children are being trafficked now?

BELLERIVE: There is children trafficking for children and adult persons, also, because they need all types of organs, so...

AMANPOUR: No, but I mean live children. Are they being trafficked now?

BELLERIVE: The reports I receive, yes.

AMANPOUR: So how are you going to -- who's helping you to -- to -- to stop this, to deal with this?

BELLERIVE: Mainly, I'm trying to work with the embassies. Any child that is leaving the country has to be validated by the embassy under a list that they give me, with all the reports. And the first thing they have to confirm to me, that they were already confirmed.

AMANPOUR: Adoption papers were -- were legal and in -- and in...


BELLERIVE: Even if all the process was -- was not completed, but there should be on the process and normally they should have been in an orphanage, and we know them, and we know that they have no parents, right now.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about schools, because that's another big issue. Obviously, it would take care of some of the trauma, some of the infrastructure for the children. I know so much of the school system has been destroyed.


AMANPOUR: Is the government planning to set up, I don't know, open- air schools, schools in tents, reopening the school system?

BELLERIVE: In fact, this afternoon, we are going to (inaudible) decision. I already had the report from the minister of education on what he can do, because the situation is very different depending of the zone. There are some zones that have not -- there is no problem to open the schools right now.

And we have different level of decision taken. We have the mayors deciding to close the schools. We have to ask -- what we have the delegates, is the equivalent of the governor, deciding to open the schools.

AMANPOUR: What will you decide this afternoon?

BELLERIVE: We are going to open it in most of the country.


BELLERIVE: Monday, I believe.

AMANPOUR: On Monday, schools will open?

BELLERIVE: In most of the states. Now we are -- we are making the evaluation of the structure in Port-au-Prince, Leogane, Jacmel, and seeing what we can do.

AMANPOUR: So that's in schools that are not destroyed?

BELLERIVE: Yeah, exactly, not the schools that were not destroyed. In the cities, where we have a maximum of school operating -- that can operate.

Now, in the capital, we cannot open one school (inaudible) and not the other. But some of the schools, they want to operate right now. They said if there are tents, if there are some facilities that -- if we can help them, they are -- they are willing to open very rapidly.

AMANPOUR: So not March 1st? Monday?

BELLERIVE: Monday, yeah.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about shelter. You mentioned tents. Again, some people are telling me they're practically in tears, looking at the sky, thinking the clouds are coming and the rains will fall. There's no heavy tents. Where are they?

BELLERIVE: I don't know; it's a good question. Normally we had report that they've already sent 20,000 tents in Haiti and 20,000 well on their way. Last -- yesterday, when we didn't see the tents and we didn't see any action to -- to -- to organize the shelters, the president himself asked to see the storage place, and we only counted the 3,500 tents.

AMANPOUR: Three thousand, five hundred tents?


AMANPOUR: How much -- how many is the president asking for?

BELLERIVE: Two hundred thousand.

AMANPOUR: Two hundred thousand. To home -- to house how many people?

BELLERIVE: Between 400,000 and 500,000.

AMANPOUR: And would you say that's your most urgent need right now?

BELLERIVE: Clearly, because we have the chance that we have no rains in (inaudible) of January, and we are very preoccupied about the consequences to have all those people in the streets, if it's starting to rain. But all the security and a lot of...

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this. There have also been a lot of questions about the effectiveness of your government.


AMANPOUR: Where are you? You're not visible. The ministers are not visible. The president is not visible. The people feel they're getting no instructions, no leadership. Who's in charge?

BELLERIVE: We are in charge. And I don't -- frankly, I don't understand that accusation that we are not visible, because I almost feel that I spend more time talking to radio, television than I'm working. I know that it's a part of my job and I have to communicate, but I really feel that I've spent too much time doing that. We have so much to do.

We have to take care of basics now, because we have a government, but we don't have a (inaudible) administration, so we are (inaudible) in fact, and we have to do things ourselves. I don't -- I don't have a lot of people to delegate right now, and we don't have structure, we don't have buildings to operate. We have to operate sometimes from our car, from our cell phone, making decisions like that.

But it was one of the facts that was important when I went to Montreal two days ago, because it was clear for the international community, it was clear even here in Haiti that there is a government, that there is a partner with whom the international community wants to discuss and decide.


AMANPOUR: We'll have much more with Prime Minister Bellerive in a moment. And on, we have satellite images of Haiti, before and after the earthquake. We'll be right back.



AMANPOUR: We're back live from Port-au-Prince, and you're looking at a live picture just behind me of a tent city that sprung up. And also, what you're looking at is what was a little first aid center where they were treating people, but now they're selling art, just a little example of how resilient people are and how, when they can, they do move forward.

But there's still a desperate need for shelter, and now here's more of my interview with the Haitian prime minister.


AMANPOUR: You've just come back from the conference in Montreal.


AMANPOUR: What are you asking the world to do now and for long term?

BELLERIVE: Now I was just explaining that the urgency is not ending in Haiti. There was a feeling that we've come over the first phase. It's not true. The first phase is going to continue months and months and months.

AMANPOUR: The emergency will continue?

BELLERIVE: The emergency, meaning that we still will have to bring food, water and essentials to the population. They are on the streets right now; they have lost everything.

But at the same time, we have to prepare reconstruction and rebuilding of Haiti.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this: Many people are saying that one of the things that has to happen now is job creation. I mean, it sounds strange after the rubble, but how are you going to do that? And do you agree that that has to happen now?

BELLERIVE: No, clearly, because we won't be able for a very long time to keep all those people in the shelters, doing nothing. And we won't be able, because I know that, in some time, the interest for Haiti is going to decrease.

AMANPOUR: Fatigue.

BELLERIVE: Exactly, so we have to create right now jobs for those people in order to have less and less people in the center of relocation.

AMANPOUR: What kind of jobs in the middle of this crisis?

BELLERIVE: Cleaning, first. Cleaning, it would be a good way to start, cleaning the streets, cleaning the buildings that are destroyed.

For the people that are outside of Port-au-Prince, we can put them to protect the environments. And it would be a good way, when they would be relocated outside of Port-au-Prince, to work on the watersheds, for example.

AMANPOUR: To work in the agriculture?


AMANPOUR: To work on the water, the forestation, is that what you mean?

BELLERIVE: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. And we have planned to do that, already. We're working on that. But the first -- the first step is to relocate them in order to organize all that.

AMANPOUR: Well, when you say, "relocate," what do you mean, relocate out of the capital? There were even reports that the whole capital would be relocated.

BELLERIVE: I don't believe it's necessary; it's my position. I have to wait for technical and scientific evaluation. But from what I heard until now, Port-au-Prince will stay there.

Tokyo is still there. Los Angeles is still there. We just have to prepare better Port-au-Prince, a better constructed Port-au-Prince, safer Port-au-Prince, but Port-au-Prince could stay there.

AMANPOUR: Have you asked or have you estimated how much your country will need for reconstruction beyond just the emergency?

BELLERIVE: I was asked that in Montreal, but, frankly, I cannot give a number now, because it's not a mechanical rebuilding. You have to evaluate what you're going to rebuild. You have to know what you are going to transfer outside of Port-au-Prince. You have to know what kind of structure for work production that you will have to make outside of Port- au-Prince.

And all that has not been evaluated. The numbers I've heard is only you lose a building of $50 million, so it will cost $50 million to rebuild it.

AMANPOUR: So there are many people who are very concerned about the corruption of the government, about the corruption of the system, about the effectiveness of the government. How are you going to ensure that the money that comes in even now is going to go to reconstruction and not into somebody's pocket? And how are you going to ensure that, for the future, all of this money and help that's pledged will be used for the purposes that it's needed?


BELLERIVE: It's really difficult. The problem is the problem of credibility. And it's very difficult to just for me as a prime minister of Haiti to say, "We are not corrupt."

What -- I can give you two examples. First, as a prime minister, I was received in Montreal, and I was discussing with the prime minister of other countries, with the ministers of foreign affairs of other countries, and they considered that I was a suitable partner in the dialogue, and they expressed clearly at the conference that the main partner will be the government.

The second thing: The IMF is not the -- the best friend of the corrupt countries. And the IMF themselves, they take the commitment to give us $100 million, not to the NGOs, not to operators, to the governments. I believe that is -- that is two examples proving that the image of Haiti, of corrupt government is changing.

AMANPOUR: Well, in fact, your supporters do say that over the last several years, that the Preval government, you have made steps toward combating corruption.


AMANPOUR: Do you need to do more?



BELLERIVE: We need a lot of procedures that will confirm that we are in a new path. Not stealing money, not making money from operating the -- the contracts and all that is not enough. You have to be more transparent. And everything has to have a way to see exactly what is happening in Haiti.

But I want to make a very important point. Right now, 70 percent to 80 percent of the aid coming to Haiti doesn't go through the government, anyway.

So when there is problem of corruption, when there is a problem of not -- non-effectiveness of the aid, a lot of the time, the government is of concern because the aid doesn't get through us. For example, the American aid is going through -- almost 90 percent is going through NGOs.

AMANPOUR: Ninety percent is going through -- do you worry about the NGO system?

BELLERIVE: Yeah, because -- breast cancer there is no accountability to the government of what they are doing with that money. They are accountable to the American government, but not to the Haitian government.

AMANPOUR: And let me ask you this...

BELLERIVE: That is changing. And I (inaudible) my administration, they are working with us in order to change that...

AMANPOUR: And the U.S. government has been working with you for the last year, at least, and very intensively. What does Haiti have to offer to get itself back on its feet? What areas of economic growth can you see, what areas of promise?

BELLERIVE: First, agriculture, not only for Haiti, but for the region. I believe that we are able to produce for more than the Haitian population.

AMANPOUR: Produce what? Fruit, I hear.

BELLERIVE: Fruit, vegetables, and other products that could be useful for transformations in the agribusiness. There was a lot of prospect around jatropha and other biodiesel products.

But in agriculture, there is a lot of opportunity, because we have a lot of lands that are able to produce, if we have better management of those lands.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe, since the world's attention has mostly been on Haiti throughout the years on the disasters, and then they move and disaster infrastructure stays in place, do you think, really, from the bottom of your heart, that this will be different? Will the world keep its focus on, and will the Haitian government and infrastructure rise to the occasion?

BELLERIVE: I believe so, for two reasons. The first reason is that we are not doing things the same way. We didn't go to Montreal and have a pledge conference where everybody would be throwing money at you, they are going to give $2 million, $100 million. We went there and the first they say, Haitians have to evaluate what they need. It's the first.

The second thing they say, let's work together to a good plan, and we will do it between now and March, when we will have the pledge conference in New York.

And, third, we won't pledge towards amounts. It would be a pledge towards specific projects. And from only the procedures, seems to me, a good feeling about what will be the outcome of -- of all that.

AMANPOUR: Well, on that note, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for joining us.

BELLERIVE: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And next, our "Post-Script." We'll be right back.



AMANPOUR: And now our "Post-Script."

Much has been made about the corruption and lack of accountability of the government, but certainly one official wanted to make it clear that at least out of the ruins of this earthquake there was one bright story. She said that the deputy governor of the national bank had told her that a tax official had just come out of the tax office before it collapsed with the equivalent of $100,000 U.S. dollars in receipts from that office, and he took it straight to the bank. It's a story that's gaining a lot of currency here.

And we want to leave you with some images of the children who we've been talking about. Children make up 45 percent of the Haitian population. They're desperately at risk here right now, those who've suffered in this earthquake, who've lost their parents, who've lost anybody to take care of them, many, many concerns, as you heard, from the prime minister and from UNICEF and from others of predators, of trafficking. So this is a big priority now to gain some kind of control over what's happening to the children.

Follow us on Twitter. Follow us on Facebook. And goodbye for now from all of us in Port-au-Prince.