Haiti is ranked 12th on the list of failed states index for the year 2009. By population size only a few countries on that list are smaller than we are. Our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is as low as any country on that list. There is a strong correlation between failed states and GDP.
We heard a lot of talk about developing and stabilizing Haiti. We heard talk about creating new conditions for the millions living in the land of the first successful slave revolt of modern era. Haiti is on the verge of choosing a new destiny. We are at the junction of deciding which path will lead to the greatest good for the greatest number. We can no longer afford to enrich a few through the exploitation of many. As we embark in this journey, it is important to make the case that Haiti is too small to fail. It is in the interest of the impoverished world that we get Haiti right, and a sound development plan for Haiti’s economy is essential.
The developed economies of the world can no longer offer survival jobs to the poor thinking this would lead to the reduction of poverty in our world. In the case of Haiti, what is mostly needed is an interrelation between education and job training. Every component to develop Haiti’s economy must include a detailed outlook of job sustainability, and a practical education system. It is a natural ambition for men to seek wealth, and achieving such ambition is impossible without the proper training.
There are three essential necessities in developing the economy of Haiti. First, we must engage in a national educational campaign. It is absolutely elementary to reduce the illiteracy rate to near-zero, if we want a prosperous Haiti. Currently, the literacy rate of 60 percent is an improvement over the last two decades, but the pace of that improvement is too slow. We must invest and engage more of our human capital to reduce illiteracy. The moment we have a literate society, the potential for wealth creation will increase at least three-fold. It can be done before the end of the next decade, if we start with the campaign today. In one of my previous column, I gave some examples of how we can re-educate the Haitian youth through innovation and the use of new technology. Education is bed-rock of a prosperous country.
Second, we must re-evaluate the definition of job creation. Is it fair to call some indirect employ that some companies are providing job creation? Imagine trying to support a family by selling a few water bags, phone cards, juice bottles or what have you in the street of Port-Au-Prince for some well-established corporations. These are not employment that would lead to a sound economy. It would be preferable to allow those average individuals to learn a new trade, while they’re involved in those indirect trade. It would be ideal if those corporations would pick up the tab to train those indirect employees on how to become self-sufficient. Whatever happens to the franchise model that we see in industrialized countries? Why can’t the average person in Haiti work their way up the ladder of a corporation? It is time to rethink the family model of businesses in Haiti. The time has come to open the Haitian market to all Haitians. It is unfair and unjust that a group of foreign investors can start a new business in Haiti in less time than an average Haitian could ever have done.
If we are serious about developing Haiti’s economy, we must give the same power to the peasants in Las Cahobas to start their own enterprise as we are giving to that Haitian diaspora or non-Haitians. The playing field must be leveled and fair. The rules of engagement need not be complicated. After all, it is only the locals who will be able to stimulate the economy of their community; hence it is in our interest to let them take ownership.
Last, but not least, we must hold the government accountable. It is a great injustice to charge for services not being provided. The state has an obligation to protect the goods of society. It is the guardian of justice. It is the sole fair arbitrator that has the benefit of all at heart. Investors and non-investors must have a certain amount of trust in the government. Real economic development cannot flourish if the arbitrator is corrupt. We cannot see the progression from one generation to the next, if the coffer of the state is always empty. This piece is the least mentioned when we talk about developing Haiti’s economy, but it is a lost cause if we cannot trust those who are supposed to make sure the rules are fair.
Haiti is too small to fail because if we can’t ameliorate the lives of a few millions living in peace with no major social threat to the global landscape, then how could we expect to meet the challenges of our era.
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