Opinion

Diaspora: Invest in your communities to strengthen Haiti’s local governments, weaken its central government

By Bobb Rousseau

Opinion Contributor  

The Haitian central government is so deeply ingrained in the country’s financial system that its continuous failure has been disastrous to social justice and financial and administrative autonomy at the local level. To correct this deficiency, local authorities must empower their area’s diaspora to play active roles in communal development

In this era of capitalism and neoliberalism, where private sectors are involved in providing public services to residents, local communities require diaspora investments. Those injections will reduce the dependency of residents on local governments, local governments on the central government, and the latter on foreign aid. 

The Haitian government providing public services to its people leads to one single point of failure. That is, its failing is synonymous with the failing of the entire nation. 

The role of government in Haiti: central and local

In theory, the central government is a backup to local governments because the latter collects local taxes to augment their fiscal patrimony, according to a 2013 decree about territorial collectivities aligned with the Haitian constitution. In the simplest terms, Haiti’s economic model is based on decentralization by the devolution process through which the central government delegates some power to local elected officials to distribute public services to residents. 

However, Haiti has a central government involved in both providing public goods and services and in administering public policies and subsidizing social programs. This approachweakens local governments and tramples on freedom and individual liberty. 

To paraphrase Diery Marcelin, a journalist for Le Nouvelliste, conversations about Haiti’s economic development downplay the understanding and role of local governments in shaping policies that can generate revenues for Haitian communities. However, little or no research is conducted on how local diaspora’s economic engagement can fuel economic policies at the local level to empower local governments, lift communities,and reduce residents’ decency on unnecessary government subsidies. 

Local governments must welcome investments in public services from their local diaspora to fuel local development. Applying the pieces of the legislation cited above, economic alliances and social partnerships between local diaspora groups and local governments should be built to develop private-public partnerships through which the local diaspora will provide public services to the people, provided that the local governments collected taxes on profits generated. 

Imagine a better way that engages diaspora

Imagine a community where transportation, healthcare, education, and electricity are provided by private diaspora entities. Imagine a community where the most important enterprises are owned by the local diaspora. Imagine better services, more jobs, more taxes, less interference and less support from the national government. 

As the diaspora would keep the community running great, local elected officials would remain focused on collecting local taxes as established by the 2013 decree. 

The diaspora is frequently expressing its desires to support its communities, but these Haitian communities lack the investment framework to attract and facilitate such investments. This is because local governments have a hard time understanding that their accountability is toward the people, not to the President and that they should rely or wait on no caravan to develop their territory. 

With the investments of local diaspora groups into businesses, social programs, and public services in private-public partnerships with local governments, communities will be strengthened while the central government will cease growing so exponentially. 

Dr. Bobb RJJF Rousseau, Ph.D., is a law and public policy expert.

Letters and op-eds are subject to light editing for clarity and to meet The Haitian Times editorial guidelines.

Haitian Times

Haitian Times

The Haitian Times was founded in 1999 as a weekly English language newspaper based in Brooklyn, NY.The newspaper is widely regarded as the most authoritative voice for Haitian Diaspora.
Haitian Times
Aug. 25, 2020

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