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Cash for… What?  

Since the January 12 earthquake, multilateral agencies and humanitarian organizations have deployed across Haiti with “cash-for-work” programs, employing tens of thousands.

Taken together, these agencies and “non-governmental organizations” or NGOs – the term is a misnomer, since many are direct subcontractors of the US and other governments – are likely Haiti’s largest employer.

Around the world, most media heap nothing but praise on the programs. 

Le monde happily relayed former US President Bill Clinton who called the program “really important” and added that the US has “a lot of experience in this area from the Near East and Afghanistan” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who noted: “It is really important to give people something positive to do.” 

PBS was thrilled to report that now, “[o]n every sidewalk and corner of Port-au-Prince there are entrepreneurs.”

And in one of its headlines, the Christian Science Monitor proclaimed that “cash for work” was helping “the recovery.”

Do cash-for-work programs help “the recovery”? Is it a good thing that the sidewalks are jammed with people selling mostly imported goods and cast-off clothing and shoes from overseas? And what lurks behind the comments of Clinton and Ban?

Haiti Grassroots Watch took a look at cash-for-work programs and in a two-part series, answers the following questions.


•    What is cash-for-work?

•    Is cash-for-work “working”? What are its effects on the Haitian economy and society




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