Mar 29, 2012
When it comes to Haiti, the Associated Press appears to be able to turn over stones other news services either miss or cannot handle. In late 2010, the AP broke the story on the likely connection between the cholera outbreak in Haiti and the Nepalese military personnel serving in the country under the UN. This time, the AP has brought to light an odd multi-million dollar real estate purchase made in the midst of the international relief effort.
According to Martha Mendoza and Trenton Daniel of the AP, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) used $10.5 million of the charitable funds the organization received on behalf of the quake-stricken people of Haiti to purchase what is known locally as the “Hilton Property” for its headquarters. The emergency relief organization has occupied the partially constructed buildings of the failed hotel project since Haiti’s earthquake on January 12, 2010. The story, published on March 26, adds that this purchase is just part of the $754 million dollars the IFRC has spent to date in Haiti.
This is not the first time that I have heard about this peculiar real estate project. Just months after the earthquake, I was contacted by a KPMG accountant. On a phone call in lieu of a meeting that would have sunk me in traffic for hours, the accountant informed me that the firm was helping its client, the IFRC, evaluate the benefits of buying the property they were currently leasing. As part of the calculation, he informed me that the emergency relief organization was contemplating being in Haiti for 5 to 10 years.
You might wonder why a missionary would get a call from a Big Four accounting firm to confirm real estate values. Well, not long before the inquiry, I had published a column on land values in Haiti. In the article, I stated that land was more expensive in Haiti than one would expect. I think my price perspective fit their needs.