One year after an earthquake devastated Haiti, much of the promised relief and reconstruction aid has not reached those most in need. The details of a recent lawsuit, as reported by Business Week, highlights the ways in which contractors, including some of the same players who profited from Hurricane Katrina-related reconstruction, have continued to use their political connections to gain profits from others’ suffering, receiving contacts worth tens of millions of dollars while the Haitian people receive pennies at best. Ashbritt, Inc., a Florida-based contactor who had received acres of bad press for their post-Katrina contracting, founded the Haiti Recovery Group (HRG).
As Corpwatch has reported, Ashbritt “has enjoyed meteoric growth since it won its first big debris removal subcontract from none other than Halliburton, to help clean up after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. As a reward for CEO Randal Perkins’ political connections, Ashbritt won 900 million dollars in Post-Katrina contracts, helping them to become a symbol of political corruption in the world of disaster profiteering.
A similar pattern was reported in Haiti. Of the more than 1,500 US contracts doled out worth $267 million, only 20, worth $4.3 million, have gone to Haitian firms. The rest have gone to US firms, which almost exclusively use US suppliers. Although these foreign contractors employ Haitians, mostly on a cash-for-work basis, the bulk of the money and profits are reinvested in the United States. The disaster profiteering exemplified by Ashbritt is not just the result of quick decision-making in the midst of a crisis. These contracts are awarded as part of a corporate agenda that sees disaster as an opportunity, and as a tool for furthering policies that would not be possible in other times.
Title: One Year After Haiti Earthquake, Corporations Profit While People Suffer
Publication: mrzine.com, January 12, 2011
Author: Jordan Flaherty
Faculty Evaluator: Scott Fielder, York University/ Humber College
Student Researcher: Michelle Fielder, Sonoma State University