Haiti’s Prime Minister Came To Miami

Last Friday, we were sadly surprised to read on the front page of the Miami Herald: “Premier’s Plea, Haiti waiting for first penny”. The article that follows was written by Jacqueline Charles, a journalist of Haitian ancestry, who is always at the forefront for the defense of her motherland. However, as it is customary in the newspapers, the decision for the headlines remains the privilege of editors who may not have the same tact and sensibility as the writers of the articles.

Truthfully, in this particular case, the editor may have taken his/her clue from the first two paragraphs of the article that related the frustration of Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis as Charles wrote, “Two months after foreign donors pledged more than $300 million in aid to Haiti, the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean nation has yet to receive any of the promised funds”… Then, the journalist reported: “We are frustrated”, said Pierre-Louis … “We are in dire need of financial support, so it would helpful to know exactly if they want [the funds] to go into agriculture, in environment, education or health. This was the plan that was presented and they all agreed on it”.

So, there is a plan that involves four specific areas, namely, agriculture, education, environment and health. The prime minister did not elaborate and no question was ask about the provision that was maid for each area to be developed, the specificity of each of them, the time frame and the expected benefit for the population and the country. Moreover, Mrs. Pierre-Louis complained about the fact that “the United States spends about $350 million a year in the country – none of which goes to the government. All U.S. funds are handled by private, nongovernmental organizations”.

To the extent that this assertion can be proven, does not the Haitian government has the right to request and receive the list of these “private, non-governmental organizations” in order to appreciate the importance of their contribution to the well-being of the Haitian population, determine how their initiatives can be maximized and avoid unnecessary conflicts and duplications? The inventory of the NGOs in Haiti has long been an impossible undertaking, although no foreign government, regardless its beneficial influence, should have the power to finance private organizations in a country without the written authorization of the host government. This is one of the questions the Prime Minister of Haiti should discuss with the U.S. Secretary of State or her deputy.

It seems, however, that the Haitian prime minister is relaying on Bill Clinton, newly appointed U. N. Special Envoy to Haiti to intervene positively. It is reported that during his first public address since his appointment, Mr. Clinton said, “one of his first priority will be to get donors to honor their $353 million in pledges”. Hopefully, concurred Mrs. Pierre-Louis talking to the editorial board of the Miami Herald, “That probably is one of the roles President Clinton will have to play”…

Prime Minister Pierre-Louis was invited by a group of business leaders to South Florida in order to discuss investment opportunities. As part of her investment speech, she apparently listed, “the construction of new roads, the construction of a $50 million pier by the Miami-based Royal Caribbean and the coming renovation of the Cape-Haitian airport with a coming Venezuelan loan”. All these are good, interesting news, but what is missing is some specificity. Mrs. Pierre-Louis did not say and was not asked where the roads where built, how many kilometers, at what cost and why there? How many Haitians were employed and what will be the benefits for the communities where they were built?

There are similar questions concerning the $50 million pier. Where is it built? How many Haitian workers benefited from the construction? Will the pier limited to the sole use of the maritime company or can it be available to other boat companies? What are the advantages for the country’s economy? Moreover, concerning the Venezuelan loan, how much is it? When and how it must be reimbursed? What will be the benefices for the Cape-Haitian population and the country at-large.

Finally, the call for Haitian investments does not suggest any areas of needs, nor any possible facilities in specific fields, including trained workers and legal guaranties. Indeed, Haiti needs all its natives, at home and abroad. Many of those want to come home, but the motherland and those who stayed must open their fraternal arms and hearts in order to forge together a better future for the beloved country.

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