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In the aftermath of the earthquake of January 12, 2010, many people inside and outside Haiti have called for a new beginning. The crisis is an opportunity to remake the country, they say, not just the collapsed buildings but also the legacy of bad governance and systemic corruption. "I want this to be a new country," President René Préval said at the end of January, waving his hands for emphasis. "I want it to be totally different."
This yearning for a new Haiti is by no means something new. In April 2009, Prime Minister Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis gave an impassioned speech to Haiti's aid donors (Pierre-Louis 2009a). "I believe that together we will seize this opportunity to make a real difference and change forever the course of history," she said. "We strongly believe that Haiti is at a turning point, perhaps even a tipping point." But she also acknowledged that in Haiti calling for a new beginning can evoke derisive laughter.
"In Haiti, popular comedians have for the past 50 years parodied the almost theatrical repeated announcement of a 'Great Beginning' in which they did not really believe themselves. The time has come to break away from such cynicism."
This is the second paper in the Working Paper Series on Development Policy.
Robert Klitgaard is a university professor at Claremont Graduate University.