Since the mid-1970, any ill-conceived idea, particularly those emanated from the International Monetary Fund, are advertised as indispensable to Haiti’s development and automatically endorsed by the country’s political leaders. The reason can partly be explained by these politicians’ inability to tackle Haiti’s seemingly intractable problems, which predictably grew more serious with their shortsightedness or indifference. Haitians alone have the power to shape their destiny; the situation commands it and the answers are plentiful, but the political will is in short supply.
Building and maintaining a modern state necessitate locally-produced revenues and not the politically-dependent foreign assistance upon which the country has been relying for its survival, a reality that has eluded every Haitian government since the death of Papa Doc Duvalier in April of 1971. Because these leaders, to varying degrees, failed to understand that indeed “Sé grès cochon-an pou ki kwit cochon-an” Haiti’s sovereignty was compromised well before the February 29, 2004 French-US invasion which, by itself, is a proof of the malevolence of the international community.
The only exception was the democratically-elected Jean Bertrand Aristide, who stubbornly resisted the onerous directives of the IMF, out of patriotism and misreading of the severity of the international community’s determination to subjugate Haiti. He was overthrown twice in 1991 and 2004 and sent manu militari into exile for a multitude of concocted transgressions, which included political murders and drug trafficking, though the allegations were never proven. The man has since been cast as an unreformed villain, whose presence in Haiti constitutes an existential threat to a nation recuperating from his truncated mandates. Prevented from setting foot in the Western Hemisphere for seven years, Aristide was eventually allowed to return last March by then-Haitian president René Préval, infuriated over the elimination of his hand-picked candidate by the international community for alleged electoral fraud. Préval and his family are now persona non grata in the countries that opposed Aristide’s return.
In essence, the international community has been shaping Haiti’s destiny in the last 4 decades and the end result is appalling. Its policies, conceived to create a mendicant and dependent state, succeeded in that regard as successive Haitian regimes willingly complied with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) inappropriately-named austerity measures. A prime example is the 1987 closing of the Haitian American Sugar Company (HASCO), then the country’s second largest employer and only sugar refinery. Back in 1984, Baby Doc Duvalier, coping with political unrest and desperate for new loans to prop-up his regime, readily complied with an IMF directive to lower the tariffs on imported sugar in exchange for these loans. Three short years later, HASCO, unable to compete with the subsidized, lower priced US sugar, closed its doors.
Economists estimate that over 300,000 people (laid-off workers, suppliers and their families) were affected by the closing of the plant. The tragedy was to be repeated in the late 1980 and early 1990, when Haiti was forced to eliminate subsidy to its farmers who formed the backbone of its society. 800.000 farmers and their families lost their only source of livelihood because of cheap imports, leaving them with no other option but migrating to Port-au-Prince, the capital city. The enormous death toll of the January 12, 2010 earthquake (official estimates put the number at or around 250,000) that obliterated the overcrowded city was the unfortunate end result of that policy. What’s more, the once self-sufficient country now imports 80% of its food needs, leaving it highly vulnerable to malevolence of its food suppliers.
What is being imposed on Haiti is the discredited system (economic liberalism) which is creating havoc around the world. For the destitute 207 year-old country that had missed the industrial revolution, the experiment will not work. Unfortunately, the yet-to-be formed government is expected to follow this proven path of destruction that has reduced a once proud little nation to the unenviable status of a mendicant state.
Counting on the largesse of aid donors and the theoretical rewards of economic liberalism has to be abandoned, if Haiti was to extricate itself from the strangled hold of foreign NGOs and breaking the cycle of instability and foreign military interventions. In light of the gravity of the situation, the incoming government must declare an economic emergency, which would allow Haiti to bypass or suspend the World Trade Organization (WTO) burdensome rules and set its house in order.
Many economic powerhouses, among them France, Great Britain and Japan, had done so in the aftermath of WWII. Haiti’s desperate situation, particularly after the earthquake, can conceivably be equated with that of a nation recovering form a devastating war, hence the need to tailor a response similar with those employed by these nations. Naturally, such necessary but controversial measure will rattle many quarters, but isn’t appropriate for a nation, which has been arbitrarily labeled “a threat to international peace and security” because of its poverty-induced instability, to extricate itself from this unenviable situation?
Having been the victim of embargoes, extortion, and military interventions (the contributing factors to its underdevelopment) Haiti can no longer afford to be punished or led astray by its tormentors. By virtue of its emphasis on delegitimizing the Haitian state and parceling its constitutional authority among foreign NGOs, the current experiment is a deliberate assault on our dignity and the principle of self-determination enumerated in the UN Charter.
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