The Jubliee 2000 Campaign just issued a request for its members and friends to write various people about the relief of Haiti's external debt. Readers might wish to know that Haiti is one of 30 nations now enrolled in the World Bank's Heavily Endebted Poor Country's Initiative HIPC.
(note here - I don't know what is going on with the font - it looks fine in the preview, I have corrected it twice, it is supposed to be all the same size, I am not alternately screaming and whispering here - it is just a glitch that I cannot fix- try to overlook it, ok?)
You may very well be one of the ones who received it. And perhaps you forwarded it about. And perhaps you even took the time to write the people involved. And then you assumed that you had done something good for Haiti. I wish I could agree.
Despite the tendancy of many Americans, in particular, to assume that all of the issues that are facing Haiti were (are) caused by the Great Cold Country to the North, the Imperialist Powers, the Neoliberal Economic Agenda, many of them are also caused, and continued to be caused by forces within Haiti, most notably a level of corruption which is unmatched in the hemisphere.The extremely talented Haitian diaspora, left, right and center, is barred officially from participating in local politics by the lack of recognition of dual nationality. Officially, a constitutional reform will take ten years. Yet without the participation of the Diaspora, an estimated 50% of the college educated populatio, it is hard to imagine how Haiti will ever rise up off its knees.
So, my vote would be to save the effort in banging on the doors of The Bank, and perhaps instead, gather a small group together to send a Haitian through college at the H.E. L. P. project
Here is the lastest view of Haiti from from The Economist.
A modest success for the United Nations is threatened by nature and lassitude
THERE is a new lake outside Gonaïves, a town of 300,000 people and the fourth-largest in Haiti. It blocks the road south to the capital, Port-au-Prince. It formed last autumn when four storms, three of them hurricanes, swept over the poorest country in the Americas in the space of a month. The rain—a metre’s worth on one night alone—fell on saturated mountains, long since denuded of their forest cover, and swept down on to the coastal plain. It seemed a modest victory that only 793 people died, compared with 3,000 killed by Hurricane Jeanne in 2004.
Five months later, bulldozers have cleared the mud from the main streets of Gonaïves. Away from them, on countless side streets, pedestrians look down on rooftops on either side. The houses have been dug out by hand, and the dirt piled in mounds on the roadway.
Only 20% of the town has been cleaned up, estimates Olivier Le Guillou of Action Contre la Faim, a French charity, which has paid 1,800 residents to help do the job. The damage was not confined to Gonaïves. Haiti’s agriculture minister reckons that 60% of the harvest was lost and 160,000 goats were killed, along with 60,000 pigs and 25,000 cows. In all, the storms have cost the country $900m, or 14.6% of GDP, according to a donor-funded government study. That is equivalent to 12 times the damage of Hurricane Katrina in the United States, and comes just four years after Jeanne wiped out 7% of Haiti’s GDP.
Nature is not the only force knocking Haiti back. Since Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a left-wing former Catholic priest, was overthrown by a rebellion in 2004, the country has been in the care of the United Nations. Some 7,000 UN soldiers and 2,000 police, mainly from Latin America, keep the peace. The UN mission has brought greater security: reported kidnappings fell from 722 in 2006 to 258 last year. A new UN-trained Haitian police force now has 9,000 officers. The streets of Port-au-Prince are visibly cleaner.
But this has not stimulated economic progress. Three-quarters of Haitians still live on less than $2 a day. Two in five children don’t go to school. A quarter of districts lack schools; where these exist, there are 78 pupils per teacher. In 2005, the maternal death rate rose to 630 for every 100,000 births, up from 457 in 1990. Though more than half of Haitians work in farming, they produce less than half the country’s food needs. Haiti’s agriculture is the least productive in the world, says Joel Boutroue of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). A hectare of rice paddy in Vietnam will produce 20 tonnes of rice a year, whereas a Haitian hectare yields just one tonne.
Trends in the outside world have added to Haiti’s home-grown woes. Last April the rise in food prices brought riots that toppled Jacques-Edouard Alexis, the prime minister. In January it was almost impossible to find a litre of petrol (though diesel was available). Rumour holds that Venezuela halted delivery of subsidised oil under Petrocaribe, a scheme which saved Haiti’s government alone at least $200m last year. Any boost that might have come from a law approved last year which grants Haiti’s textiles duty-free access to the United States has been more than nullified by the slowdown in remittances (down 20%) and exports because of the American recession. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister organisation, the economy will contract by 0.5% this year.
But some of the problems are the fault of Haiti’s politicians. René Preval, who was elected president in 2006 to widespread acclaim among Haitians and outsiders alike, now seems indecisive. It took him five months to form a new government after Mr Alexis went, and then many aid projects had to be renegotiated from scratch. Mr Preval has warned Haitians of a difficult year ahead.
“People want to see more than pessimism from a leader, they want to see proposals,” says Kesner Pharel, an economist and political analyst. The president is not the only one to blame. Hedi Annabi, the UN’s official in Haiti, recently criticised the country’s politicians for wasting time in “infinite debates” instead of “working for the essential needs of destitute Haitians”.
Corruption is deeply rooted. The family and friends of politicians and civil servants expect “to benefit from privilege”, says Gary Victor, a novelist. Money that was supposed to build better drains in Gonaïves after Hurricane Jeanne was siphoned off, says a UN official. There are plans to terrace the hills above the town, to plant shrubs and dig canals. But political lassitude means that this will not get done before the next hurricane season. The prisons remain an overcrowded horror, with four-fifths of the inmates yet to face trial.
The only business that seems to thrive is drug trafficking. The police chief in Port-de-Paix, in the north-west, was poisoned in January after several million dollars of cash seized from the uncle of a prominent drug-smuggler went missing. Guy Philippe, a former soldier who led the rebellion against Mr Aristide and whom the Americans accuse of drug-trafficking, says he will run for the Senate.
Next month aid donors will convene for a conference on Haiti, the first since the autumn of 2006. In response to the hurricanes they have doubled aid to $800m a year (half of this comes from the United States). That is on top of the UN mission’s $600m annual budget, and Venezuela’s fuel subsidy. Some things have been achieved in Haiti since 2004, but more should have been. “We spend a lot of money doing capacity building, but it is not clear that this has an impact,” says Mr Boutroue of UNDP. “Maybe we are just buying social peace—instability has just as much to do with the well-being of members of parliament as with a deepening of poverty.” It is surely time for outsiders to hold Mr Preval and the politicians to account.