The earthquake has shone a bright light on Haiti. A month later, the dust begins to settle and there is no chance that someone will be found alive under the rubbles. The sites of the public buildings and private homes will be cleared, however, there will not be enough space for two millions people who lived in Port-au-Prince before the quake.
Moreover half of the population is less than 18 years old. The need for elementary, secondary and vocational school buildings and teachers is imperatively urgent. An essential Haitian instructional system must have priority to insure the durability of efforts accomplished. It cannot be done within the limited space in which too many people were piled up mostly in precarious conditions.
The Haitian government should review past studies and determine less congested areas of the country, and proposed to those who want to help financially, the construction of new properly equipped modern communities with the establishment of agricultural, industrial or other jobs generating enterprises for about 500,000 inhabitants.
Like the same number of people who have fled to Cap-Haitien, Artibonite, Hinche, Port-de-Paix, Cayes, Jeremie – cities that are not necessarily able to accommodate a surplus of population – many people will want to take advantage of new living accommodation. It might be possible also to survey which cities or communities that have developing potentials and encourage investments and migration there.
No country can prosper when one third or one fourth of its population is piling up in one city that could barely accommodate within itself and in all its extended areas, not even one million inhabitants. A country needs diversity of choice for its population. The United States may not have been as great a country without the western expansion. Next door, in the Dominican Republic there are several cities that offer comfortable life to the citizens and first class accommodations to the visitors, besides the capital.
There are fewer Haitians who have maintained the old tradition of pride in their cities or their communities, and who have over come difficulties to remain at home. They must be offered as examples to the younger generations which must be encouraged to do the same by providing them with the kind of basic facilities of modern life. This can be originated by the central government and gradually transferred to local administration that will become responsible for adequate growth and management.
In “Written in Blood”, published in 1978, Robert D. Heinl, Jr. wrote on page 565, “Yet the central problem, too little land, too many people – a country the size of Vermont with nine time Vermont’s population – remained. Scarcely less critical were uncontrolled deforestation and soil erosion. Bananas and cotton were dead; sugar and sisal were at the mercy of fluctuating markets … There was no budgetary system. If there was to be a central plan, … it must focus on agriculture, on effective use of government revenue, and on encouragement of foreign capital to enhance development.” These observations are valid even today.
The government should prevent precipitous reconstruction of administrative buildings until it is decided to build a new Capital on a more secure ground, and after recommendations of the geologists and the seismologists. If, as it is rumored, French President Sarcozy is coming to visit Haiti and offer to President Preval the reconstruction of the national palace by the French government as a gift, let’s hope that Mr. Preval will have the wisdom to ask for a moratorium until a final decision is made concerning the location of a new capital.
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