January 15th, 2010 by Hafiz Noor Shams
When the gods battle in Malaysia, the gods forgot Haiti.
As always, the affairs of men are too important to be left in the hands of the gods. Christian conservative Pat Robertson may disagree. Instead, he thinks god wants Haiti to suffer because Haitians made a pact with the devil. Ah, the glory of god.
Thank goodness for the reasonable and capable Bill Clinton!
Former President Bill Clinton yesterday spoke of the need to send cash to Haiti instead of items like food and blankets.
He reasoned that in Haiti now, there is simply no logistical capability to handle various items from abroad in huge quantity. Haiti’s principle airport inability to cope with the volume of aid material is one evidence of that. With an earthquake that devastating, it is probably a prudent to assume that transportation infrastructure in the country’s capital — a major population center located too close to the epicenter of a major earthquake — is unreliable now.
In economics, cash aid is the best kind of aid because only the persons on the ground know how the money should be spent, especially when compared to some kind-hearted donors living abroad. It is a case of imperfect information.
That statement is made barring the issue of corruption, which is a major motivation behind the need of material aid.
The probability of abuse of material aid is lower than the likelihood of cash aid abuse. This does not mean that there can be no abuse with material aid — somebody may get all the material aid and start selling them when it should be free— but in comparison, material aid does better than cash aid in terms of abuse prevention. Due to this as well as the horrible record of the government of Myanmar, I advocated material aid to the victims of Nargis back in 2008.
I am ignorant of Haitian politics but Haiti is located not so far away from Myanmar in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perception Index. It is classified as above Myanmar but really but comparison to Myanmar is not much of a comparison. Corruption is a serious there.
I have a lot of respect of former President Bill Clinton. He is the US President I respect the most out of Obama, the Bushes and him. When he said something, I would think twice before disagreeing with him. Indeed, as a libertarian, I should be agreeing with Clinton on his assertion of the superiority of cash aid. And sending money is definitely easier than sending material aid. Yet, I have trouble accepting his advice that cash aid is better.
Perhaps, as an UN envoy to Haiti, as well as a person that has been to Haiti, he knows more than me. His knowledge might not be as good as the victims themselves but it is likely better than mine who lives two oceans across from Haiti.
Still, what good is cash when everything is destroyed?
The economy may rebuild and spontaneous order will establish itself during this chaos but as Clinton said himself, there is no logistical capability to handle the kind of volume of aid material in Haiti at the moment. Okay but will local production be able to match the heightened demand for food, blanket, etc.?
I doubt so.
Even if local production is able to do so, would the logistics be able to cope to the traffic of goods? Would local production be able to produce everything autarkically?
Clinton is right. There is no logistical capability in Haiti. But I think that problem adversely affects the effectiveness of both cash and material aids. I am not saying aid should not be sent at all. What I am saying is that the problem with logistics might not impact the relative desirability between both types of aid by too much.
 — American televangelist Pat Robertson has blamed the devastating earthquake in Haiti on a pact between the impoverished nation’s founders and the devil.
It is feared that up to 100,000 people may have lost their lives when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake flattened massive areas of the capital Port-au-Prince yesterday.
Speaking on his television program The 700 Club, Mr Robertson said the pact happened “a long time ago in Haiti”. [Haiti disaster blamed on pact with devil. ABC News. January 14 2010]
 — International relief to quake-devastated Haiti was reduced to a trickle this morning after the capital’s airport was overwhelmed by a sudden influx of aid planes, as the country’s President said 7,000 victims had already been buried in a mass grave. [Bottleneck paralyses Haiti relief efforts. Kim Landers. Craig McMurtrie. et al. ABC News. January 15 2010]