Last week, I wrote about the urgent need to stop financing failing methodologies in Haiti. I elaborated on the fact that many of the actors currently involved in the reconstruction of Haiti are profiting from the country’s lack of progress, hence benefiting a great deal in the failure of all institutions within the country.
I received a detailed email from a reader, which stated that rubble’s removal is a much easier task than, let’s say, drafting educational policies or giving access to healthcare or even solving the unemployment issue. The reader added that rubble’s removal does not require a college graduate to do the job, but rather money, heavy-equipments, a dumping site, and the workers are all that’s needed to get it done. And unfortunately, even that cannot be executed by those in charge.
The reader’s comments left me wondering about not just how people are taking advantage of the failing system in Haiti, but also how failure in itself needs to be redefined in the Haitian context.
If people are living under the tents for eight months with no end in sight, and no one has yet to elucidate on a plan to relocate them, should that be considered failure? If we have all those neighborhoods filled of rubbles and streets nearly un-drivable, should that be seen as failure? If we have all those people in the penitentiary, and most of them have yet to know what the charges against them are, should we see that as failure? How about, if we examined the conditions of the “restaveks” young children, who usually live with someone other than, their immediate family; or we analyzed the working conditions in some of the factories.
On the surface and by the standard of anyone who are not used with these archaic practices would rightfully consider all of these examples as failures, but are all Haitians see them the same way. It is one thing to talk about failure, but it is a completely different situation to actually define what failure really is.
Many people in Haiti have such low expectations about what their government should represent, what the private industry should offer, and even what their role within the society should be that defining failure is often done through a personal optics.
What some people clearly see as failure others would claim it is progress. For example, almost everyone affected by the January 12th earthquake would say that they have not seen any progress, as far as the reconstruction is concerned, but in many occasions, we have heard our Prime Minister and the UN special envoy to our country proclaiming that “something” is working in Haiti. They would often allude to how many tents that international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have distributed, how many pocket of ready to eat meals they have handed out and so forth to claim that progress is being made. In that scope, it is not hard to understand that failure can only be analyzed in the eyes of the beholder.
Failure in Haiti is not only qualitative, meaning something that we can only observe through the living conditions of the people. It is important to add the quantitative aspect to the failure of Haiti. It is not enough to say that Haiti is the poorest nation in the western Hemisphere, that’s a qualitative statement. It would be more beneficial to policy makers, if instead we said that 80% of Haiti’s population does not have direct access to clean, potable water, or that more than half-million children of school age are out of school. This is putting poverty in perspective, and it could help put a dollar-value per person in order to address systemic failure.
After January 12th, the leaders of the reconstruction came out with a draft to rebuild Port-Au-Prince and sometimes they vaguely referred to it as the plan to rebuild Haiti. Analyzing the document, I cannot clearly understand how they come up with their total. It is not clear how much it will take per family to change each family impoverish conditions. At the core of the plan, it seems like someone realized the destruction was just too much, it must be in the billions. Now, Haitian officials do not talk of millions any longer, it’s all about billions. Again, the international community is ready to throw money at failing propositions without a clear analysis of how to reverse the failures to success.
We must understand why failure has become so chronic in Haiti. We must define the failure that we are talking about because if we do not have a consensus of what failure is, then how can we have a consensus to address the issue.
It should no longer be doing business as usual, where an expert or a lifer in Haitian politics say gives me the money and I will do “this” and “that.” People need to be quick to press the pause button, and ask questions: The doing “this” and “that” will solve what, and how exactly are you going to do the “this” and “that”?
We must all agree on exactly what is currently being failed in Haiti, and from my perspective it all starts with the way the country is being governed. We have a governance failure, where there is no one responsible for anything. And as one of my readers mentioned in the email, we do not even have a responsible agency for removal of the rubble. This is a failure from the authorities and also a failure from the people for accepting to live in these conditions as if tomorrow is going to get better. Last I check, in Haiti, tomorrow has always gotten worst.