Haitian leader wants changes in recovery panel

Associated Press
A girl plays with a doll out the window of her tent at a refugee camp, once a golf course, set up for earthquake displaced people in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, July 22, 2011. Haiti's President Michel Martelly launched Monday several projects to rebuild the capital's downtown area. The projects will include access to credit, for 10 years, at a preferential rate to wage-earners who want to buy or build a home. According to the International Organization for Migration, eighteen months since the 2010 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti, more than 600,000 people still live in settlement camps. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — President Michel Martelly announced changes to the makeup of a recovery commission Friday that he says will make it more effective as it tries to rebuild from Haiti's devastating earthquake.

Haiti's new leader also asked for a yearlong extension on the mandate of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which was set up months after the January 2010 disaster to better coordinate reconstruction. It is led by the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and Haiti's outgoing Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

The mandate of the panel is due to expire in October and Martelly's request for its extension could meet opposition when it goes before Haiti's legislature for approval.

Since he took office in May, Martelly has been at odds with the opposition-controlled parliament. Lawmakers rejected his first pick for prime minister and seem ready to turn down his second.

At the commission's meeting Friday, Martelly named Ann Valerie Timothee Milfort, former chief-of-staff for the Ministry of Women's Affairs, to serve as interim executive director. He also named six members of his inner circle as board members, replacing members who recently resigned as the previous administration handed over power to Martelly.

The panel was set up to give international donors assurances that reconstruction would be orderly and free of the corruption that has long plagued Haiti. But it has come under heavy criticism for accomplishing little since its inception.

To date, the commission has approved 87 projects with a total value of $3.26 billion, of which $1.8 billion is secured, according the U.N.'s Office of the Special Envoy.

Martelly advisers presented a proposal Friday that aims to move 30,000 people living in six tent camps back into 16 neighborhoods to be redeveloped from the quake's destruction.

Among the six sites is a parking lot at a soccer stadium in downtown Port-au-Prince that was the center of controversy this week. The government drew criticism from the United Nations and rights groups after a mayor began to pay several hundred people to leave the parking lot without providing them a right to adequate housing.

"I want to reiterate that my government is against forced evictions that do not respect human rights," Martelly said at the commission meeting.

After the session, the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, a World Bank-run group that allocates funds to projects approved by the recovery commission, agreed to set aside $30 million for the government's relocation effort.

"What's important is that the international community is showing its support for the president," Josef Leitmann, manager of the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, told The Associated Press. "They're sending a signal to the president: We're reserving the funds until we see a final proposal."

The government's relocation plan is part of a larger effort to resettle some of the estimated 634,000 quake survivors still living in hundreds of tent-and-tarp settlements that sprang up in the capital and surrounding cities after the quake. The goal is to redevelop neighborhoods by providing loans so that residents can repair quake-damaged homes.

The Haiti Reconstruction Fund also said Friday that it has allocated $237 million to pay for 14 reconstruction projects. The amount represents 71 percent of the $335 million given by donors.

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