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#1 Jun 06, 2017 4:07 pm

New Historian
Active

Is there hope for Haiti?

The first time I went to Haiti was in 1975 from Jamaica. I went with a group of students and we stayed in a cheap B&B in downtown Port-au-Prince. I was enthralled at the vibrant culture; but at the same time appalled by the extreme poverty I saw in Port-au-Prince on a daily basis: women washing babies in the gutter; flies and filth intermingled with food. In Jamaica we had poverty, terrible poverty in Kingston’s ghettoes; but nothing like this.

Fast-forward four decades and I was again back in Haiti. In March 2013 I spent two weeks in Port-au-Prince and its surroundings. Earthquake damage was still very much in evidence all across Port-au-Prince; but so too were the rebuilding efforts, large and small. All around the city you constantly hear the sounds hammers, generators, trucks: reconstruction in progress. There is a long way to go. The sums of money needed simply to rebuild Haiti’s shattered infrastructure to its former levels are staggering enough, let alone to bring Haiti up to the standard of her Caribbean neighbours.

Indeed, money has been “flooding into” Haiti, billions of it. Where did it all go? On looking around Port-au-Prince, you do not see much sign of the US$12 billion-plus that has allegedly been poured into Haiti since the earthquake. This is what is known as donor overload: throwing more money at a country than it can absorb. As fast as you throw money; it leaks out again.

However there is one immediate sign of where a lot of the aid money has gone: Pajeros, Land Cruisers or Pathfinders take your pick, Port-au-Prince’s narrow streets are jammed with big SUVs emblazoned with an alphabet soup of Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) logos. There are 560 registered NGOs active in Haiti; and that does not include the multilateral donor agencies, development agencies, UN agencies, diplomatic staff or church groups – the place is awash with well-intentioned white people!

It costs a lot to hire white people. For expatriate staff in Haiti, everyone has their driver, their guard, and is a member of the UN’s tightly controlled security system. Money leeches out of Haiti as fast as it is pumped in; all of the products in those uptown supermarkets are imported; and most of the salaries paid to foreign staff never reaches Haiti – everyone lives off allowances. This donor overload has more deleterious side effects than just traffic congestion: for one thing it leads to a hand-out mentality among the recipients; easy come easy go. Nothing has any value, because everything is free. Trucks are donated in one year, scrapped the next. Pumps for village wells are donated; but no money for maintenance, so things fall apart, to coin a phrase. Heads of charities fly down in private jets and pose for pictures at water pumps with half-naked children; but one cannot help but wonder: How many Haitians are really helped, in the long term, by all this do-gooding? Not a lot.

Depending on which way you look at it; the Caracol Industrial Estate is either the most exciting industrial project in Haiti’s history – or its biggest white elephant. Funded by the Clinton Foundation, USAID and the Inter-American Development Bank, this gleaming new US$300 million industrial park in North-East Haiti is modestly touted to employ 60,000 people in the future. In the present however, it only employs about 2,000 people.

Haiti’s government wants to develop the country’s tourist industry; which some people see as a pipe dream considering the overwhelming negative images that have been associated with Haiti since the earthquake. In the mind of the average tourist (i.e. rich/white); Haiti is not the first place one thinks of as a holiday destination – au contraire. But this does not mean that Haiti has no future in tourism; it just may not be the type of future that the government has in mind. Art is one of Haiti's most famous and enduring assets, and could be used as a basis to develop the tourism industry. Culture vultures tend to be a bit tougher than your average tourist-type, and are more likely to ignore the negative stereotypes that define Haiti in the media's eye.

The more aid money the West pours into Haiti, the more money Haiti will need; it is only by investing in sustainable businesses, that Haiti will be able to grow and stand on its own. The billions being poured into Haiti will yield tangible results - in time. The question is: Does Haiti have the time?



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#2 Jun 06, 2017 4:40 pm

Real Distwalker
Active

Re: Is there hope for Haiti?

Money isn't wealth.  Money is a storehouse of wealth.  Money is relatively easy to understand.  Wealth is ethereal.  Money isn't easy to manage.  Wealth is extremely difficult to manage.

If you took all the money in the world and redistributed it, in but a few years it would be back in the hands of the same people who have it now.  Why?  They know how to handle wealth.  That's why they have it.

What is the answer to the disparity of wealth?  I don't know.  Sometimes I despair in the deep suspicion that there literally is no answer.

Good writing, good article and good photos.  Thanks for posting.

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#3 Jun 06, 2017 7:37 pm

New Historian
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Re: Is there hope for Haiti?

The tragedy of Haiti is also its finest moment. Because Haiti had the "audacity" to earn its freedom from slavery through revolution, the imperial powers of France, Britain and USA made Haiti pay a heavy price, to this day. When half your national income has to be spent on reparation payments to your former slave masters, is it any wonder that the country has no education, no health, no civil society, no government institutions; in short: no civilization? Haiti was paying France "reparations" up until the 1940s.

Reparations? Start with Haiti.

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#4 Jun 07, 2017 9:59 am

Vanni
Active

Re: Is there hope for Haiti?

I've been thinking about whether to express my point of view about this question or not.

We are in a world dominated by one vision, imposed as the only realistic possibility.

However, there is another vision - whether we depreciate it or simply cannot believe it is possible.

Surely it takes a certain mentality to get wealthy. It takes the taste for hunting for money, with all its implications: not everyone has such a taste. Some for interesting reasons, some for less interesting reasons. Some simply don't feel right by using certain ways and prefer to channel their energies into other areas, more representative and supportive of a higher aspect of life - and sometimes it incidentally becomes lucrative - but the idea of money is not the leading one. Some are plain negligent.

We may want to understand a few aspects of the state of imbalance of wealth our world is in.

One of them is the organised routes for funneling wealth: our society has built them up over generations since ages. So now, there are chosen areas of the world. There are chosen professions, which guarantee better incomes than others. Sometimes accessible through restrictive paths, which, for example, imply already existing financial foundation, so an elite is preserving itself, while making it hard for anyone not of the elite to have access to it. While anything dealing with finances, for example, is lucrative, do you think that someone who is, on the other hand, making the infrastructures of our society work, like the sewage system, for example, valued and rewarded financially? Yet, without them, we'd crumble into dereliction. High finance people included.

Who are we without the menial and sometimes semi-slave workers? Undervalued and underpaid. By design?

Which brings us to another aspect in direct relationship - and I'd dare to say a wanted consequence - is engineered poverty - up to abject poverty. In which a vast amount of our humanity is living: in such a state, all endeavours go toward surviving. Just finding enough water and food to simply stay alive. And sometimes dying from it, because of impure waters and food. Do you figure out these humans have time, energy and thought capacity to put into building up profit and saving themselves from their generation-to-generation fate?

Can they be helped? Yes!

Who can help them? Those who can afford it. By a combination of energy, ingenuity and finance.

May you understand that I am not preaching impoverishment for all, but abundance for all. So those who really have way more than not just necessary, but vastly comfortable, could be happy with vastly comfortable, and help others with anything beyond.

If we really care to stop any form of exploitation, paying decently everyone involved, caring for those who cannot even care for themselves: could we re-balance wealth in our humanity?

But do some want to keep that engineered situation? Are we being admitted the truth, with all the mainstream media vastly broadcast one-sided and indoctrinating opinions about this question, that it could be changed for infinitely better within a very short time? That clean water, healthy food, decent conditions of living, caring for life, for our whole human population, and furthermore happy conditions of living for the rest of the living world in harmonious interaction is in fact totally conceivable, actually makeable and is now in fact the condition for our planet's survival?

So:

Isn't the ultimate power and grace to choose to not use and exploit this power for one's exclusive benefit, but to choose to use it for the benefit of all - to share and to care?

Last edited by Vanni (Jun 07, 2017 10:06 am)

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#5 Jun 07, 2017 10:45 am

Slice
Active

Re: Is there hope for Haiti?

New Historian wrote:

The tragedy of Haiti is also its finest moment. Because Haiti had the "audacity" to earn its freedom from slavery through revolution, the imperial powers of France, Britain and USA made Haiti pay a heavy price, to this day. When half your national income has to be spent on reparation payments to your former slave masters, is it any wonder that the country has no education, no health, no civil society, no government institutions; in short: no civilization? Haiti was paying France "reparations" up until the 1940s.

Reparations? Start with Haiti.


Reparations?  Should start with Papa and Baby doc.

I give up on Haiti a long time ago.

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#6 Jun 07, 2017 11:15 am

New Historian
Active

Re: Is there hope for Haiti?

"Reparations?  Should start with Papa and Baby doc."

Who created Papa and Baby? Who supported them, funded them, kept the kleptocrats in power? I'll tell you who: the same "super" powers that impoverished Haiti for centuries, the tripartite alliance: France, UK and America. The Duvaliers were useful to keep the lid on things, while France received its annual "reverse reparations" and American companies made super-profits off their Haitian businesses. Did you know that, at one time, virtually all the baseballs used in "America's past-time" were made in Haiti?  And you can add the Catholic church to that list too:

http://islandluminous.fiu.edu/part10-slide05.html

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#7 Jun 07, 2017 11:51 am

Real Distwalker
Active

Re: Is there hope for Haiti?

I am not saying they don't deserve reparations but, as I implied above, dumping cash on Haiti will not solve their problems.  It will just fall through their fingers.

The sad, counter-intuitive, truth of this world is that you cannot cure poverty by giving people money.  In order to not be poor, you must understand how to create and hold wealth.

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#8 Jun 07, 2017 12:41 pm

Vanni
Active

Re: Is there hope for Haiti?

The degree of dysfunction of humanity will become obvious sooner or later. When we'll wake up from a partly impressed illusion upon us by those whom it profits, and a partly self-imposed one. Part of our salvation is truly within our hands and reach alone: we can reconsider what we believe to be reality and what we have been told and believe to be the only working conditions of living - like predation for example.

There is a working way of living which resembles more paradise than hell.

So many people believing in a God and Its teachings, up to fighting people from another religion. Believing in a paradise, but who do not grasp that the message is about something realistic to live by each moment, merging this eternal spiritual reality with our present one, and lifts it up. True that it takes a lot of faith and a lot of good will smile

Last edited by Vanni (Jun 07, 2017 1:20 pm)

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#9 Jun 07, 2017 3:54 pm

New Historian
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Re: Is there hope for Haiti?

It's not a question of dumping money on Haiti, as I argued, Haiti doesn't have the capacity to absorb it. France has the best private water companies in the world (so they tell us lol!); why can't the French government, in "reparation" for its past evil treatment of Haiti for centuries, decide to roll out water to every Haitian home? They could do it in a decade! All the French government has to do is ... pay for it. Okay, another pipe dream!

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#10 Jun 08, 2017 1:43 pm

Vanni
Active

Re: Is there hope for Haiti?

Helping whoever in need to get a decent and comfortable infrastructure and help them to maintain it until independence and autonomy of these people - using, for example, (a portion of) the money put into weapons and wars, among others:

no one can find any excuse against this, can one?

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