Haiti wants more information on foreign aid

PORT-AU-PRINCE Wed Mar 3, 2010 6:44pm EST

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haiti's prime minister demanded more information on Wednesday about foreign aid pouring into the earthquake-stricken country and urged that his government not be sidelined in reconstruction efforts.

The issue is sensitive for international donors who considered corruption a major problem before a January 12 quake that killed as many as 300,000 people, according to government estimates.

The quake also killed many civil servants and left government structures in ruins.

Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive decried a lack of coordination by aid donors with his government but stopped short of saying all bilateral aid should be funneled through the government.

"We don't know who has given money to NGO's (nongovernmental organizations) and how much money have they given. ... At the moment, we can't do any coordination or have any coherent policies for giving to the population," Bellerive told a news conference.

His remarks came as European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visited the country to discuss reconstruction aid before a donor conference in New York at the end of the month.

Ashton, criticized by some European politicians for waiting until now to make her first visit to the country since the quake, toured an Italian rubble removal project and visited an Italian hospital ship and a Spanish ship off the city of Petit Goave.

ENSURING AID REACHES PEOPLE

The EU and its members have together pledged about 609 million euros ($834 million) to Haiti since the quake, including 120 million euros ($164 million) from the EU Commission in immediate humanitarian aid and a further 300 million ($411 million) in the medium term, a Commission spokesman said.

That money also includes 100 million euros ($137 million) in direct support to the government.

"There is a capacity problem that has been exacerbated by this earthquake. When I met the president and the prime minister, it was to talk about the long-term plan and to see that we are able to support them economically," Ashton said.

"One of the issues that all governments have to tackle is making sure there is a system in place to ensure that the aid reaches the people it's intended for. We will work with them (the government) to try and make sure that that happens," Ashton said.

In one measure of the amounts of aid flowing into the country, about $70 million has been donated to the Catholic Relief Services charity since the quake and a further $35 million was donated by U.S. dioceses in a single Sunday collection, senior U.S. Catholic officials said.

Those sums are a fraction of the total amount given by the Catholic Church to Haiti since the quake, they said.

(Editing by Jane Sutton and Peter Cooney)

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