Since the catastrophic 35-second earthquake of last January, Haiti has received more visitors than during the heydays of its tourism industry. Among many thousands of doctors, nurses and other professional volunteers, who have flocked to the country to provide genuine help, there are also some opportunists looking for a quick scheme to reap part of the billions of dollars promised to reconstruct this dilapidated country.
A recent video focused on the collapse of the National Palace, the Palace of Justice, the Legislative Palace, the Palace of the Ministries, all powerful symbols of grandeur and prestige.
The 250,000 buildings destroyed, including 25,000 businesses, the collapsing of many churches and the destruction of 80% of the schools are mentioned as regrettable losses, as well as 500, 000 people who have migrated to other parts of the country, leaving behind 300,000 injured people and 4,000 amputees.
The point of this video escapes many people who see it as a way to stoke some kind of nationalistic fervor that is perhaps misplaced.
Many of the high-level government officials are deluding themselves if they think that international benefactors will rebuild the country. They may have pledged billion of dollars and even if they do honor these commitments, they will do in their best interests naturally and not for Haiti’s. The reality is that for each dollar allocated to Haiti, 40 cents at least will go to foreign specialists, consultants, technicians, heavy equipments and specialized operators. Factory and other forms of investments will expect the highest hilt of result for the lowest possible expenses. Other countries have been able to protect their work force better. Haiti should learn from them.
Listening to President Rene Preval, the First Lady, the Prime Minister and three ministers, we have not learned anything about the Haitian government’s vision for a new Haiti. Preval overstated the resiliency and courage of the Haitian people, mentioning the need to rethink Haiti, to decentralize, to rebuilt Port-au-Prince, and to invest in education, health and agriculture. He did not, even after five months, refer to a master plan, nor to the observations and suggestions of geologists and seismographers, whose opinions may force to build a new capital without palaces on more stable grounds.
The First Lady’s call for foreigners to help reconstruct the Haitian education system is consistent with the belief that a genuine national system will not be proper enough. Regardless of its weaknesses, the so- called Joseph Bernard’s reform remains a solid basis for a modern and practical education system in today’s Haiti. We must establish an instructional system that build knowledge acquisition on the basis of instruction favoring mathematics, natural sciences, geography, cooperation, creativity and productivity.
The minister of Health mentioned the injured and the handicapped, but he said nothing about the private hospitals that had withstood the earthquake shock and are now have to reduce services or even close because of bankruptcy after providing free care to the thousands of people in physical distress. The Haitian government should have placed these health facilities on the primary list of those in needs of immediate financial assistance. Thousands of patients still need their medical services.
The representatives of the international community who are in charge of coordinating and supervising the assistance to Haiti, come from rich countries. Their vision is necessarily at the dimension of today development of their country. While Haiti was a poor country before January 12, it is now a country in deeper distress. In the process, there will be a lot of mistakes, a lot of waste, a lot of misappropriations. But Haitians should study the lessons of other countries, like Jamaica and Costa-Rica to learn how they deal with big donors and how those countries progressed. Jamaica, whose instruction is based on British Education system, has the highest literacy rates in the Caribbean after Cuba. While constitutionally, there is no army in Costa Rica and a Costa Rican never loose his or her nationality, it also has a high literacy rate and a flourishing tourism industry. Haiti needs to follow these countries in its new opportunity to redress two centuries of mismanagement.