To hear UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon and other development experts tell it, Haiti is in a good position to sell more mangoes and T-shirts to the United States as the world economy is crashing and the shape of capitalism as we know it is likely to be significantly altered.
While we appreciate such optimism and good words, we would like them to be tampered with a little dose of reality. Haiti was largely ignored while the party was in full swing. We were deemed unsafe place to visit and to invest. So it is ironic now that the rest of the world is crying poverty that they turn to us. Thanks, but no thanks.
The other visitor who recently visited Haiti was Bill Clinton, whom we love dearly for he tested his young presidency on restoring democracy to Haiti, meaning returning the ousted Jean Bertrand Aristide back to power after he was ousted in 1991. Under the watch of George H. W Bush, Aristide had gotten the royal run around trying to return to Haiti. So it was a major coup when Clinton achieved what was unthinkable. But Clinton in our opinion failed Haiti more than he helped our troubled homeland. He left the job undone and “cut and ran” under assault by a feisty Republican Congress which was bent on destroying his administration. So in the American political context, Haiti became expandable and faced an unsupportive Washington, a president who returned under deep suspicion by the Haitian business and political elite. The history of that period is still unfolding, but we believe that it would not be too kind to Clinton.
And so it was that Clinton has been trying his best to help Haiti. He brought a phalanx of people meaning well. A American Army General once said that Haiti did not understand the language of business and we concur. So that is why we’re even more skeptical the latest attention being bestow upon Haiti will amount to much. The Haitian business and political classes are too self-centered and visionless that they will try to either stop any meaningful development or suck it dry before it gets off the ground. That is why we don’t have a world class hotel in Haiti, despite Marriott and other international chains effort to do so.
These opportunities have all been squandered. Who needs Marriott when you have Montana? Despite the economic woes, money has not been a problem to get Haiti started on the right path. There are still plenty to go around. Haiti has no infrastructure to process capital constructively. And any attempt is literally dumping money down a furnace. That is why after billions of dollars of aid, the country remains a basket case.
The only thing that would help Haiti is for Haitians living there to come to the realization that the system under which they live is broken and needs fixing. Only then, you can loosen the grips of the oligarchs and corrupt politicians to give the people a chance to improve their lot. Until then, words from world leaders and Diaspora types will ring hollow no matter how well meaning.
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