Under the Radar

Haiti Needs a Grand National Project, Not Short-term Solutions

Haitian president Michel Martelly and former American president Bill Clinton announce the approval of a plan to help rebuild parts of 16 neighbourhoods around the capital  that will benefit approximately 33,000 people displaced by the earthquake in January 2010.

Haitian president Michel Martelly and former American president Bill Clinton announce the approval of a plan to help rebuild parts of 16 neighbourhoods around the capital that will benefit approximately 33,000 people displaced by the earthquake in January 2010. Photo Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH

By Max A. Joseph Jr.


In 1882, Leo Pinsker, a Jewish physician, Zionist pioneer and activist living in Odessa, present-day Ukraine, made this astounding analysis of the Jews in Europe; anti-Semitism he declared is “incurable and a psychosis.”

He went on to say that the cause of it was the abnormal condition of Jewish life, and that the only remedy for it was the removal of the cause through self-help and self-liberation. Needless to say his advice was heeded and the Jews began the official process, i.e. Zionism that culminated in the founding of the State of Israel on May 16, 1948. Unfortunately, within six decades of Pinsker’s bold analysis, six million Jews would become victims of the “psychosis” that the members of the civilized world had blatantly chosen to ignore.

Pinsker’s analysis bears an uncanny similarity to the situation facing Haitians in the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and other countries with substantial members of their Diaspora. The only dissimilarity is that the Jews in the 19th century did not have a physical place to call “home,” but were nonetheless emotionally and spiritually connected to Eretz Yisrael, the biblical land of their forebears.

Undeniably, anti-Haitianism has long evolved into a psychosis, particularly in the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas and may also be incurable. Unless we Haitians take note of this disturbing reality, a fate not dissimilar to that of the Jewish people awaits us.

We must take a pro-active approach in deciding our fate or the alternative will be a reaction to something that could have been prevented (possibly an industrial-scale slaughter of Haitians or a wholesale deportation to other lands).

The fact that Haiti, a country that is at peace with its neighbors and trying to deal with its problems within the confines of its capabilities, could be collectively labeled “a threat to international peace and security” is a definite warning of an impending disaster, notwithstanding the previous instances in which it was victimized.

It is therefore absurd, if not irresponsible, for Haitians to entrust their fate in the hands of countries with perfect record of harming the interests of Haiti and its citizens. If you follow the narrative of the international community on Haiti, you came away with the impression that Haitians represent the worst humanity has to offer. Not surprisingly, the general public, which is somewhat less informed than the narrators of the nonsense, is feasting on it. Even the ineffectiveness of the foreign aid that Haiti receives is blamed on Haitians, even though less than 15 percent of the allocated money is actually spent inside the country.

Evidently, it’s not what we do that provokes hatred, but our very existence that seems to be the issue. Recorded history attest to an unassailable fact: Demonization of a group or people by the more powerful has always been a precursor to atrocities against them.

Though many of the challenges confronting Haiti (abject poverty, deforestation, demographic explosion and unsustainable erosion of its top soil) may be enormous, they are by no means insurmountable. They could on the other hand be used as rationale for a speedy implementation of any insidious agenda that the international community may have in store for Haiti. We can, through a concerted effort, overcome these challenges or accept a humiliating and, in all probability, brutal fate at the hands of our detractors.

First and foremost, the notoriously fractious political establishment and the native business community must recognize that Haiti belongs to Haitians; that foreign assistance is not an altruistic endeavor but a tool to advance the donor’s interests, and that the future of the country should be the sole responsibility of Haitians.

Unquestionably, a long-term plan as opposed to short-term solutions to Haiti’s problems is needed, if Haitians were to part with the cycle of foreign dependency, machinations and military interventions that has tarnished their otherwise storied history. Engineers, entrepreneurs, inventors, scientists, and technicians are indispensable to sustained development. Needless to say, Haiti is deficient in all these areas. A thirty-year Grand National Project that puts emphasis on building institutions of higher learning and technical schools, purposely designed to close the gap in these areas, is desperately needed to set the country on the road to sustainable economic growth.

The Diaspora, which has been clamoring for a greater political role in the country’s affairs, will get a chance at proving that should be the case. Contextually, the Institute of Sciences, Technologies and Advanced Studies of Haiti (ISTEAH), was created by Diaspora scientists, as well as colleagues in Haiti and has taken the lead in that regard. The organization is aiming to train 1,000 scientists in 10 years, through a masters and doctorate programs that would form the nucleus of a new generation of competent educators. If only this great initiative could be expanded exponentially, Haiti will be within reach of having the necessary tools at its disposal to develop and prosper.

Haiti has reached rock bottom. Hence the responsibility to lay the foundation that will extricate it from this impasse rests upon the shoulders of this generation. We will certainly not be there to enjoy the fruits of this effort with future generations of Haitians, but they would be able to look back and remember us with the same pride that we bestow on the former slaves that created Haiti against overwhelming odds on January 1, 1804.

The writing is on the wall and it is time that we stop ignoring it.

Oct. 06, 2014

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