Last week, Haiti was in the news with the visit of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, former US President Bill Clinton, a delegation of the UN Security Council, and some US investors, including Haitian-American artist Wyclef Jean.
This visit created a lot of enthusiasm and hope both among the former President Aristide’s supporters, who thought that Clinton was coming to negotiate their leader’s returned home. For his part, President Rene Preval hoped that the visitors to bring positive announcement of immediate help and long term support.
During the same week, last Thursday, March 12, Professor Oxford University professor Paul Collier, invited by MINUSTHA and the Center for Free Enterprise and Democracy (CLED), presented his rapport on « Haïti : des catastrophes naturelles à la sécurité économique » [Haiti: from the natural catastrophes to the economic security] at the Montana Hotel.
In both events it was mainly question of help needed by Haiti to overcome its current disastrous economic situation. Professor Collier sees some potentialities in favor of Haiti. His report mentioned the geographic position of the country that, he said, was in a pacific and prosperous region. The country, he added, has a considerable Diaspora that, not only provides a massive monetary contribution to Haiti, but constitute also a reservoir of competence.
“The commercial and economic opportunity that HOPE II provides for Haiti is the guaranty to American market access without taxes and without quota constraint”, Collier recalled and added that, “in consideration to access to the market – an important element – Haiti is today the surer production place in the clothing world”. He also signaled the proximity of Haiti to its primary market, the United States. In his report, Professor Collier observed that unfortunately there seems to be, among the Haitians, a lack of confidence in themselves that prevent them for taking advantage of the potentialities that could bring long term changes. To those who brandish the card of weakness and Haiti’s problems to justify their inaction, Collier retorts that there is no justification in rehashing the past errors and to talk about that did not work. It is preferable and most useful to converge collective efforts to look for the minimum to do in order to start off the country again.
However, Collier warns not to be too ambitious in the improvement efforts of life conditions, and not to get involved in vast, complex, expensive and difficult projects. He favors a steady string of small victories, particularly in the rule of law, in the revision of agricultural production, the rehabilitation of the environment, and the development of basic services. “We must concentrate on a clear, short term agenda to reboot the country.”
These two last week events in Haiti have two different meanings. The rather large delegation came to assess needs and determine ways to generate help. The other lone visitor tried to challenge the Haitians’ capacity to pull themselves from their difficulties by themselves. To evaluate their own limited resources or opportunities and find into the strength of their patriotic pride and courage the proper action not only for survival but even for progress.
Although Collier did not specifically list education and health among the immediate concerns, we recommend to include them among the basic services. More importantly, the Haitians must take note that his remarks implied that they must pull themselves by their own bootstraps, call in the effective collaboration of their compatriots in the Diaspora and together, help themselves for a change.