By Max A. Joseph
The tragedy of January 12, 2010 should be the catalyst for rebuilding a better and more inclusive society. Every nation has gone through a period of inertia and self-doubt, but thanks to the incessant meddling of the international community, Haiti has remained in these conditions longer than conventional wisdom dictates. We must come up with a viable alternative to the dysfunction that has allowed foreigners to come in uninvited to divide and rule. Haiti cannot be left at the mercy of these unfriendly forces, which for over two centuries, decided that it should not exist or be allowed to rule itself.
Practically every educated Haitian in the Diaspora knows what is ailing Haiti but incorrectly believes that he or she alone is uniquely qualified to administer the required treatment. This bizarre mindset, seemingly a Haitian peculiarity, fosters a culture of condemning everyone else while simultaneously absolving all of any responsibility toward the country they profess to love. The resulting dysfunction naturally conveys to the world the appearance that Haitians have resigned themselves to their fate, which one must presume, helps shape the patronizing policies of the self-styled “Friends of Haiti.”
One celebrated example of this mindset was the dual-nationality issue, which the Diaspora had used as a “cause célèbre” for almost three decades following the exile in February 1986 to France of the now deceased Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc” Duvalier. Mindful of the importance of this powerful and sometimes petulant constituency, which comprises many of Haiti’s best and brightest, the Haitian government ultimately acquiesced to their petition by amending the 1987 Constitution. The amendments, which took effect in June of 2012, would allow Haitians who had acquired a foreign citizenship to vote and to be eligible for appointment to ministerial posts and other political positions that previously could only be filled by Haitians who had never renounced their nationality.
It is tempting to say that it is too early to assess the benefits or downside of this historic piece of legislation, whose proponents swore was indispensable to the process of rebuilding Haiti. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that neither the Haitian government nor the Diaspora has yet to come up with a comprehensive plan to carry out the objectives of this union, even though an extreme sense of urgency exists. This lack of common purpose or coordination needs to be addressed expeditiously, given the fact that the country needs to extricate itself from its dependence on the notoriously unreliable and politically-adverse foreign aid for the rebuilding.
Preventing at all costs a situation in which thousands of Haitians would be fleeing the impoverished, ecologically-damaged and disaster-prone country has always been the only goal of the international community. Obviously, a one-dimensional approach to dealing with a multifaceted and complex issue. But to the nation’s builders and lord protectors, the current approach is working seeing that the prospect of boatloads of Haitians fleeing the country and destabilizing the entire Caribbean region has apparently been neutralized. However, the benefits of spending billions of dollars on an occupation force (Minustah) could only be short-lived as long as the underlying causes remain or are not addressed properly.
Haiti is so dependent on the generosity of the international community that Haitians instinctively lash out at their leaders whenever the aid is not forthcoming, which happens often for political reasons, or its advertised effects are not felt by the population. The perennial accusations of stolen monies stem from the fact that most people do not understand the concept of foreign aid, which is primarily geared toward benefiting the donor country. That is why donor nations routinely forgo their own domestic obligations to finance foreign aid, because it provides employment for their citizens, opportunities for their corporations and political allegiance. The late Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) could not have said it better: “no nation has friends, only interests.”
It is inconceivable that the presidential, legislative and judicial palaces, the most important symbols of the Haitian state, should be financed by the lord protectors and nation builders. Sadly, the political elite, schooled in a dependency system that discourages local initiatives, promotes inertia and rewards self-preservation, sees nothing wrong with this proposal.
Now more than ever, the time has come for the petulant Diaspora to deliver on its promises by dedicating itself to the rebuilding of Haiti, through deeds rather than empty rhetoric. Given that the Haitian state cannot presently raise money on the international market, due to the complicated restrictions of the debt forgiveness that it received in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, would the Diaspora be willing to invest in a “patriotic bond” for the rebuilding of these important symbols of the Haitian state?
The issuance of such bond would not circumvent or violate the debt-forgiveness agreement between Haiti and the international financial institutions, given the fact that the bondholders will be exclusively Haitians and the proceeds earmarked for a project of national interests. It will be a domestic issuance, although an international security firm will be hired as underwriter, thus ensuring the integrity of the process.
Like any other Third World countries, Haiti, albeit on a much pervasive scale, is a victim of a geopolitical order that draws its staying power on “absolute control” of the defenseless. The cosmopolitan Diaspora, liberated from the occasionally misguided nationalism of the natives, could indeed rescue Haiti from the abyss by taking a leap of faith.