World Bank approves $255 million plan for Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE _ The World Bank will spend $255 million to help house Haitians, clean up neighborhoods and send thousands of children to school over the next year under a plan approved Thursday by the agency's board.

The new funds seek to fill critical needs in Haiti as the troubled nation nears the second anniversary of the January 2010 earthquake that toppled thousands of homes, destroyed hundreds of schools and force more than a million Haitians into precarious settlements in the capital and elsewhere.

The money will go toward housing 22,500 people, many of whom have been living in the hundreds of tent camps that sprang up after the quake. It will also help spruce up parks and repair roads in neighborhoods that are home for 75,000 people, pay for school tuition for 100,000, train 8,000 teachers and provide hot meals five days a week for 75,000 youngsters.

The funds give hope that reconstruction will move along even though a recovery panel that was supposed to coordinate those efforts dissolved in October.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which was co-chaired by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, came to an end after Haitian authorities failed to renew its 18-month mandate.

A transition team and Prime Minister Garry Conille are trying to figure out the shape and responsibilities of a new panel.

The World Bank announcement came the same week that a forum hosted by the Haitian government and the Inter-American Development Bank brought hundreds of potential investors to Haiti, an impoverished country long overlooked because of its tattered infrastructure, cumbersome laws and unpredictable political climate.

President Michel Martelly said at the event that he wants to create 500,000 jobs within three years.

Some of those jobs are to be generated by two international businesses that announced projects this week: a $224 million industrial park in the north, the country's biggest private investment since the quake, and a $45 million Marriott Hotel to be built in the capital.