On April 13 and 14, international and bilateral donors will meet at the headquarters of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to announce a major assistance package for Haiti. The donors meeting should have been held a year ago. But about this time last year, protests over the scarcity and high cost of food spread from Haiti’s south and mushroomed into riots in the capital, Port-au-Prince. They caused severe property damage to businesses and led to the fall of the government. Haiti got a new government about 5 months later when the Haitian parliament signed off on Michèle Pierre-Louis as the country’s new Prime Minister. Pierre-Louis had her hands full as soon as she was ratified since Haiti had faced in quick succession the force of four tropical storms and hurricanes that caused an estimated $1 billion in damages and losses.
Donors will have considered two documents:
- The Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy that the Government of Haiti developed with international assistance over two years ago. It’s not clear that the strategy has been revised in light of the major political and socio-economic catastrophes that hit Haiti in 2008.
- The Collier Report, so named after its author, Paul Collier, author of “The Bottom Billion” visited Haiti last December — for no more than 5 days — at the request of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and devised a proposal that the Secretary-General has since enthusiastically embraced.
Judging by the speeches made at the UN Security Council session on Haiti on April 6, there will be no dearth of evocations that Haiti is once again at the “crossroads of risk and opportunity” and that all involved will stay the course so that the country realizes its full potential. The Security Council met formally to review the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). You can access the report by clicking on this link. If you have the time and the patience, you can view and listen to the entire broadcast of the meeting on Haiti (scroll down to April 06, 2009: the question of Haiti).
Will the meeting be declared a success? Possibly… but then everyone will cross their fingers, for Haiti is set to hold elections five days later on April 19 to fill at least a third of the Senate seats that have remained vacant for over a year now… Candidates claiming the mantle of “Fanmi Lavalas”, the political party associated with deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, were disqualified based on the fact that they represented factions that fielded candidates for the same seat. Since this avenue to political participation appears closed to Aristide followers, Haiti’s international allies have grown concerned that political violence will mar election day. An additional fear is that post election day if these folks feel disenfranchised they will not hesitate to destabilize Haitian and international efforts to come to grips with what ails the country.
Stay tuned, but don’t stay out of the debate. Collier’s prescriptions for Haitian economic development have been highly praised by Mr. Ban and other international luminaries, but have received guarded endorsement or scorn elsewhere. I have found some of the premises that undergird his proposals to be ill-informed. Moreover they appear to be simply a contemporary version of similar proposals developed in the late 60s when the United States made peace with the Duvalier regime and launched efforts to transform Haiti into a showcase of capitalist development. Haiti, they claimed, would be the Taiwan of the Caribbean, as opposed to what was then being denounced as the “Cuban gulag.” Two generations have come and gone since then.
Join the debate, especially if you consider yourself to be a member of the Haitian Diaspora. Why? Most of the current proposals bet on the Haitian Diaspora as a cash cow. See for yourself, and if you believe that you have more to bring to the debate than cash and a passive nod to developments in Haiti, say something.