Dept. of Unintended Consequences, Haiti Edition
From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, a report by David Luhnow from Port-au-Prince:
After the Jan. 12 quake, which killed as many as 300,000 people, the world launched a massive relief effort to bring food, water, medicine and other supplies to needy Haitians. The U.S. alone has spent more than $665 million, official figures show.
But only a tiny fraction of that money is being spent in Haiti, buying goods from local businesses. Worse, the aid is having the unintended consequence of making life harder for many businesses here, because of competition from free goods brought in by relief agencies. The damage to Haitian companies is making it harder for them to get back on their feet and create the jobs the country needs for a lasting recovery. …
“I have fewer customers now because they are handing out free food down the street,” says the 52-year-old [food vendor], pointing to the nearby Champs de Mars plaza where aid organizations regularly hand out food to tens of thousands of people camped there in tents.
I assume most people would argue that a few dozen, or even a few hundred affected food vendors is a small price to pay for feeding thousands.