By Bobb Rousseau | Diaspora Matters Opinion Contributor
The Haitian government grants its diaspora nothing but harassment, desertion, rejection, and humiliation, but like a bowling ball that is fingered, picked up, thrown away in the gutter, the diaspora keeps coming back for more harassment, desertion, rejection, and humiliation. The difference is that the bowling ball strikes most obstacles that are pinned up its way, whereas the diaspora avoids, whines and complains rather than strategizes to show its worth to its homeland’s sustainable economic development.
At a time of increased impact of diaspora remittances on the economy and growing debate on the best approach to reduce systematic corruption in the country, the need for Haitians immigrants to play key developmental roles in Haiti is now more imperative than ever.
The diaspora is the new big deal whose skills and competencies are paramount to pulling Haiti out of poverty. The government must design and implement effective policies to institutionalize their engagement to transforming Haitian immigrants into private investors, agents of development, and the nuclei that direct foreign investments toward Haiti. Better yet, good sense policies are needed to promote working relationships between the diaspora and government officials, government agencies, and civil society organizations.
The government must enact corporation policies that will create special offices of the diaspora in each ministry and government agencies of the country to foster diaspora representation and incorporation at national, regional, and local levels. These offices will be the hubs to connect local governments with diaspora funding and international investments.
Haitian immigrants see governments as an obstacle to their engagement in economic development and their integration into politics. Despite this, the only way they know how to be engaged is through charity, philanthropic, or humanitarian activities. They remit money and call their loved ones to alleviate individual poverty and, in the process, strengthen government spending in social programs. Moreover, few remain abreast of Haiti’s current events and, where necessary, voice their opinion regarding mismanagement, corruption, and government political overreach.
In the United States, Canada, or France, even the least educated or the least wealthy Haitian immigrants are exposed to networks and relationships that they can bring to invest, launch businesses, and stimulate entrepreneurship in Haiti. In fact, for several decades already, the Haitian government neglect, better yet reject the diaspora, as a whole, by enacting policies that prevent Haitians immigrants, whether naturalized or permanently residing, from participating in political activities and launching enterprises.
Although there is a Ministry of Haitians Living Overseas (MHAVE) as well as various Haitian embassies and consulates, the government is yet to run an inventory of skills and competencies of Haitian immigrants to manage, transfer and apply these skills toward the country’s fight for social justice, rule of law, and sustainable economic, social, and political development. Taking advantage of the diaspora’s motivation to be engaged in local development requires transforming their skills into a magnifying human capital and tapping into their financial resources to fill strategic positions in areas needing expertise and financing. It requires also that local diaspora offices develop educative strategies to transform diaspora remittances from charity to investments.
The loudly headlined and debated constitutional amendment must provision the diaspora with a seat around the table and opportunities to be freely engaged in dialogues that will spur and steer the economy. The diaspora is the country’s most valuable, but not invested, economic and intellectual asset. His corporation into politics and governments is overdue and a competent government must implement strategies to reduce the constitutional hassles that prevent them from contributing equitably to the recovery of their country.
Bobb Rousseau holds a Ph.D. in Administration and Public Policy with specializations in Public Law and Managing Local Government. His dissertation focuses on the diaspora’s political activism and community engagement to incorporate politics and local government.
Dr. Rousseau’s research promotes diaspora investments to strengthen Haitian local governments and weaken the central government. Rousseau firmly believes that the Haitian diaspora in the United States is at a prime stage to build an attractive political force that can shift U.S. immigration, diplomacy, and humanitarian aid to Haiti and to advance the Haitian agenda around the world.
Connect on Facebook: /drbobbrousseau, Twitter: @rousseaubobb, or LinkedIn: in/bobjrusso
Letters and op-eds are subject to light editing for clarity and to meet The Haitian Times editorial guidelines.