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#10: Ericq Pierre on the Situation in Haiti: Part 2

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>

(For the complete report go to:
www.us.net/cip/Recent.html )

Haiti: Thoughts on the present situation (Part Two) 

by Ericq Pierre 
Presented in Boston on May 30, 1999, at the invitation of the Centre 
Francophone des Études Haïtiennes et Internationales (CEFREHI) 

1.- In early May in Montreal, at the invitation of Initiatives Dé
mocratiques, I was able to share with Haitians living in Canada some of 
my thoughts on the Haitian situation. My audience consisted mostly of 
expatriate professionals who, however, remained pronouncedly interested 
in everything relating to Haiti, as much economically and politically as 
socially and institutionally. To be sure, these professionals subscribed 
to divergent political views, but they all shared a very strong tie of 
patriotism that life far from their native land had been unable to 

2.- I had warned my friends in Initiatives Démocratiques that in my 
presentation I would not develop academic or philosophical ideas, but 
would endeavor to ponder the specific challenges we, as Haitians, must 
face in the twenty-first century. So I spoke of our poverty and 
inequality, of the need to fight corruption, set up conflict-prevention 
machinery and strengthen social negotiation. I explained that, if such 
machinery had been available, most of the conflicts that had become 
problems could have had outcomes beneficial to the country. 

I addressed briefly the government reform program, the situation in 
justice and education, the fate of the forty-sixth legislature, 
disrespect for elected officials, etc. But I raised more questions than 
I answered, the idea being to stir debate and draw conclusions from the 
different views expressed. 

Purposes of this second part 

3.- My presentation today covers the second half of my reflections on 
the situation in Haiti. The purpose will be no different from the one I 
had in Montréal, but I will try to take my views a little further. As 
you know, the situation is highly complex, and I have had to pick and 
choose the subjects I would deal with, but in the discussions you may 
consider any subject that interests you. 

At first, therefore, I will return to the matter of poverty reduction 
(this is actually an inexhaustible subject because of its diverse 
facets), but will this time introduce a few elements that may be taken 
into account in charting a social policy for it. In Montréal I cited 
some economic aspects in particular. I will also offer a few 
considerations on the future of the reforms launched by the government. 

Then I will turn to other sensitive matters, notably the situation of 
the National Police which, as you know, has been the target of all sorts 
of criticism from grassroots organizations and some political activists. 

4.- In my presentations I generally prefer to speak conversationally to 
encourage dialogue among Haitians, among patriots who, in varying 
degree, face the same problems. For when Haiti has problems one may 
certainly question the leaders, who may or may not be doing everything 
they should, but we should also question ourselves, because all 
Haitians, whatever sector they belong to and whatever the extent of 
their education, wealth and well-being, suffer to some degree from the 
effects of those problems. So I expect that, when I have concluded my 
presentation, exchanges and discussions will spring up that will enable 
us to chart some paths to the future beyond whatever I myself propose. 

5.- In so doing I would also like to encourage those interested in the 
question of Haiti to try to understand properly what is going on, to 
express their opinions, not to let themselves be intimidated by those 
who think they know better than anyone what is best for Haiti or those 
who would have us believe they have a monopoly on patriotism and on 
grassroots sensitivity. A long time ago, I learned that there are four 
ways to waste time: by doing nothing, by not doing what you have to, by 
not doing it right or by doing it at the wrong time. I hope that after 
our discussions here, no one will feel like they have wasted their time. 

Two basic issues before we enter the twenty-first century 

6.- The concerns I raised in Montreal, and which remain more topical 
than ever, took the form of two basic questions: 

Question one: Will Haiti take in the twenty-first century the measures 
it was unable to take in the twentieth to provide education for all as 
the foundation for equal opportunity and to fight poverty in the long 

Question two: Are we laying the foundations for a society that will be 
able to offer every Haitian child opportunities for social, economic, 
moral and spiritual growth? 

Part of the answer lies in the strengthening of institutions 

7.- We must seek the answers to these questions together. But I can 
already tell you that, now that the transformation of Haitian society is 
in full swing, some answers must be sought in the policies we adopt. If 
we adopt policies that enable us to consolidate our institutions and 
establish in the conduct of public affairs standards and procedures that 
apply equally to all, we will be able to answer those two questions in 
the affirmative. If we do not, you can imagine right now what is going 
to happen in the twenty-first century. 

8.- We must strive to institutionalize relationships and not to 
personalize them. If, in the conduct of government, standards and 
procedures are supplanted by personal relationships (or if we neglect to 
define and apply those standards), we will never build sound 
institutions. Similarly, if, every time a problem arises in society, or 
there occurs a technical, financial, political, economic or 
institutional problem, instead of seeking solutions in the established 
standards and procedures the decision is left to the discretion of some 
person (the division chief, the manager, the secretary of state, a 
judge, a deputy, senator, minister, prime minister or the President), 
that is, to someone who thinks he has an answer for everything, we will 
find ourselves in the twenty-first century with a system which, though 
disguised in equity, will be closer to cronyism and fascism that to the 
democracy we claim to be building. 

Allow me to recall at this point that one of the current definitions of 
democracy is as "a form of social, political and economic organization 
that gives individuals control over their personal and collective 
destiny and in which the liberty of one persons ends where that of the 
next one begins." 

In our capacity to appreciate what we have 

9.- The answers to these questions must also be sought in how we address 
certain problems. The answer will be NO if we see poverty as destiny, if 
we turn our backs on reforms on the pretext that they raise more 
problems than they provide solutions, if we lose hope in the capacity of 
Haitians to solve their own problems, if we stop regarding ourselves as 
producers of wealth. The answer will be NO if we allow the social 
infrastructure and service delivery systems to degrade further and take 
no steps to reverse the present trend. The answer will be NO if we 
persist in the bad habit of making no concessions in the quest for 
solutions to our problems. My mother often said that many seek but deep 
down do not want to find. So, if we enter into negotiations we must do 
so for the purpose of obtaining concrete results. The best way to get 
nothing is to decide at the outset to make no concessions whatever. 

10.- But the answer will obviously be YES if we stop considering this 
poverty as destiny and accept the fact that an enterprising, creative 
people like the Haitians should not be identified primarily by the 
visible poverty that afflicts them. The answer will be YES if we adopt 
policies that allow investment in human capital and take account of the 
fact that, as I said before, for the first time in its history our 
country has a critical mass of men and women in all social strata who 
have embraced the ideas of democracy, change and development. 

In consolidation of the reforms already set in motion 

11.- The answer is YES because, despite problems of every kind, an 
extremely important step was taken in our country when we grasped the 
need for reforms in all sectors and, as the saying goes, the hardest 
step is very often the first one. Everybody knows that the reforms 
undertaken are not perfect. But credit is due to all those who 
understood the need to get these reforms started, even if at present the 
leaders (yesterday's and today's) for a variety of reasons combining 
emotional problems, states of mind and political calculations are not 
all on the same wave-length. 

Speaking for myself, regarding the initiative for the reforms, I want to 
give credit to ex-President Aristide, who upon the return to 
constitutional order sent out the signal for reform (among others, the 
National Police was created under Aristide's presidency), to President 
Préval, who opened his term of office on a platform of reforms, to 
ex-Prime Minister Rosny Smarth, who in his General Policy Statement 
embraced reforms, to the forty-sixth legislature, which before 
foundering in immobility for political reasons, ratified certain laws in 
support of those reforms. 

12.- This is now history, and history cannot be changed. Indeed, 
political division should not prevent us from giving credit where it is 
due or from appreciating the reforms that the government has undertaken 
in opening up of the economy, trying to generate an environment 
favorable to the private sector, pondering policies to improve 
infrastructure in the key sectors of energy, communications and 
transportation, studying conditions favorable to development of the 
financial sector, etc. Much remains to be done, to be sure, for reform 
is a complex, time-consuming business. But we should appreciate what has 
been done because the longer we take to carry out reforms, the more 
difficult and the more costly they become to implement. 

13.- We should also welcome the emergence of a new class of 
businesspeople who evince a strong desire to distance themselves from, 
and not be confused with, the traditional money-grubbing, mean-spirited 
and corrupt elite, whose wealth seemed to come more from their contacts 
with and proximity to power than from any hard work or intelligence. 
Most of the members of this new business class, in which we admittedly 
find many young men and women from that traditional elite, are 
conducting their lives and businesses more in spite of than in harmony 
and complicity with the rampant corruption. They are very easy to 
identify in that they behave much more like entrepreneurs than like 
bosses. By the way, it seems to me that it would today be more 
productive and more conducive to modernity in the future if the term 
"patronat" (owners, employers, as a group) were replaced with the term 
"entreprenariat" (entrepreneurs). This doesn't seem like much, but it 
would prompt a shift in attitude just as in the social and moral sphere 
the term "single mother" has supplanted "unwed mother," with its 
entirely negative connotation. 

In our capacity to promote domestic investment 

14.- Among the things that remain to be done it should be recalled that 
if the government wants to be democratic it must learn to conciliate all 
the pressures on it and at the same time respond to the demands of a 
society that expects of its public institutions more effectiveness, 
greater accountability and the will to meet the growing needs of the 
poor. It will not do enough merely by trying to create conditions 
conducive to foreign investment: it must be particularly at pains to 
create an environment favorable to domestic investment and most 
especially to small and medium-sized business. For while foreign 
investment and loans can play an important role in growth and 
development, those flows are never sufficient and are not always stable 
and predictable, as Haiti's present experience shows. Sustainable 
economic growth requires the successful mobilization of domestic 
financial resources. 

15.- Moreover, even if we want the private sector to become the main 
engine of growth, the success of this policy depends in the long run on 
the presence of an effective public sector, a government that remains 
the driving force of economic and social development and is able to 
correct deficiencies of the market and make up for failures of concert 
among stakeholders without thereby attempting to change society by 
decree. We must therefore strive to build a modern, more effective, 
accountable government that conducts its business with transparency. 

And in the implementation of a real social policy 

16.- Today no one would think of denying that these reforms are not yet 
giving the poor (the majority, in other words( more and better 
opportunities for productive employment. The answer is not to abandon 
the reforms, however. On the contrary, they must be improved. We must 
see to it that a coherent macroeconomic policy goes hand in hand with 
intensification of the national dialogue and the implementation of a 
social reform program grounded in political consensus. We must broaden 
the social programs to ensure that the entire population is productively 
employed and to foster social and political stability. We must round out 
the economic and financial reforms with genuine social reforms. Hence we 
must have a social policy. 

That results in appropriate budgetary allocations 

17.- The design and implementation of a social policy are a complex 
undertaking. They should involve the government as a whole and in no 
case be left up to any single agency. To appreciably reduce the level of 
poverty, concurrent measures must be taken in different directions. It 
must not be forgotten that a reform of social policy entails a 
reallocation of public expenditures to the social sectors, because 
poverty cannot be reduced sustainably or human resources upgraded unless 
the efforts to do so are accompanied by sustained budgetary efforts in 
the implementation of poverty-reduction programs. Fresh investments must 
be approved in human resources, mainly in the fields of education, 
health care and vocational training both to improve equity and to 
enhance the productivity of the human capital. Everybody knows that a 
population that is healthier and better educated and skilled is more 
productive and hence indispensable for an increase of employment and 
modernization of production. This reform also requires a population 

How many Haitians are we? 

18.- It is a pity that we have not taken a census of the Haitian 
population before entering the 21st century. The last general census 
dates back to 1971 (with an update in 1982), and we do not have an 
accurate estimate of our present number. The estimate for the population 
in the country ranges between 7.2 and 7.8 million and Haitians abroad 
are said to number about two million, scattered mainly in North America 
(Canada and the United States), Europe and the Caribbean (the Dominican 
Republic and the Bahamas). Here in Boston there are said to be about 
65,000 of us. 

19.- Must I remind the government of the necessity of counting the 
population it governs to be able to assess the nature and scale of its 
responsibilities and the means of discharging them, and to plan the 
public services that will be required? And besides, the census would 
provide the public authorities, among others, with reliable data for the 
economic and social management of the country. It will also enable them 
to set their priorities better, to determine the real impact of the 
measures taken and to evaluate them better. 

While modern sampling techniques are increasingly supplanting censuses, 
if we want to use those techniques intelligently we must still take a 
census first to obtain comprehensive information on every inhabitant and 
have a reliable base from which to draw representative samples. Of 
course, the cost of this will be high since every additional question 
has to be multiplied by the total number of the population. 

Thus the government should make the necessary arrangements for 
conducting a general census of the population as soon as possible. 
Besides, this would enable it to modernize once and for all the Institut 
Haitien de Statistiques et d'Information (Haitian Statistical and Data 
Processing Institute), whose importance has not, I think, always been 
acknowledged by the public authorities. 

Social dialogue must be intensified nationwide 

20.- Social policy must be built into the Budget of the Republic. Here, 
again, truth enjoins me to acknowledge that the government has sketched 
the outlines of a social policy with the establishment of, among other 
agencies, the FAES (Fonds d'Assistance Économique et Sociale) and INARA 
(Institut National de la Réforme Agraire), and the execution of 
practical agrarian reform activities in the Artibonite valley, coupled 
with other measures for decentralization in agriculture and health, as 
attested by the establishment of the "unités communales de santé" 
(communal health units, or UCSs). And there are yet further measures 
that could be mentioned. Again, however, these activities are too 
dispersed to constitute a coherent policy, and have been obscured by the 
breakdown or complete absence of social dialogue. 

However, at the beginning of his term, breaking with political practice 
in Haiti, where leaders generally abstain from any explanation of what 
they do or of the decisions they take, President Préval arranged several 
meetings with local communities, Parliament and civil society 
organizations in an effort to arrive at a consensus on the reforms to be 
undertaken and more particularly on the program for modernization of 
public enterprises. 

21.- This effort was not enough, however, and was not adequately 
continued by the government. This is why, when the political 
disagreements that had long been brewing broke into the open, the 
temptation to challenge everything became great. But we must build on 
what the government has done. We must capitalize on the reforms that 
have been undertaken. 

More than anything, however, we must resume and intensify the social 
dialogue. That is, the established authorities (the executive, 
legislative and judicial branches) must join hands with civil society 
organizations (social, professional and labor organizations, NGOs, 
political parties, the private sector, the religious sector, etc.) and 
with Haitians abroad to break with past practice and lay the foundations 
for a new society. But the established authorities must also be 
organized on a sound basis, their gains consolidated, the areas of 
agreement strengthened and efforts made to resolve differences. In this 
national dialogue the executive branch must take the lead. 

Finally, we must learn the art of compromise and concession 

22.- Unfortunately, it has to be admitted that compromise and concession 
are not in the Haitian makeup. This is why we so often see interminable 
conflicts in which, in the end, all contending parties lose because they 
have either overestimated their own strength or underestimated the 
powers of resistance of the others. Some observers of this phenomenon 
have not hesitated to attribute a suicidal urge to Haitians. But 
psychologists will tell you that an absolute refusal to compromise and 
concede actually betrays an acute sense of insecurity and weak 
intelligence that makes it impossible to win, compromise or persuade. 
Most of the tragedies that fill the history of Haiti have had no other 

23.- Thus the habit of making no concessions is not conducive to social 
dialogue, which is yet essential to the success of any process of 
change. What is worse, the contending parties spend so much time 
preparing and parrying low blows that they reach the point of forgetting 
and even setting entirely aside the interests of the country for whose 
sake they claim to be participating in its political life. I invite you 
to ponder most particularly the real meaning of this state of affairs. 

24.- I will now go back to the need to build a modern and more effective 
government, a government that is responsible for its acts and conducts 
its business in the open. What we need to know is that this kind of 
government requires institutional reinforcement of the executive, 
legislative and judicial branches as well as of other public agencies. I 
would like to return once again to the situation of the parliamentary 
institution, which, though the present structure of the legislature is 
based on the Constitution of 1987, has existed in our country since its 
founding. Then, before closing, I will present more elaborate 
considerations on the National Police, itself established only recently. 
The executive and judicial branches will be the subject of the third 
part of this series, to be delivered at another forum next July. 

The parliamentary institution 

25.- Elections will probably be held at the end of the year for 
two-hirds of the seats in the Senate, the entire Chamber of Deputies, 
all the mayors, CASECs and local authorities. 

26.- If all goes well, the forty-seventh legislature will open on the 
second Monday in January 2000. It is to be hoped that the elections that 
return it will be recognized as honest and transparent by the Haitian 
public so that its members may enjoy the legitimacy and respect that 
universal suffrage confers. A well-functioning parliament is 
indispensable to consolidate a democratic regime and guarantee the 
quality of the laws. In our country this is all the more important in 
that the Haitian Constitution endows the Parliament with extensive 
powers to deal with issues of public policy and places the parliamentary 
institution at the hub of the political system as the people's 
representatMonday in January 2000. It is to be hoped that the elections 
that return it will be recognized as honest and transparent by the 
Haitian public so that its members may enjoy the legitimacy and respect 
that univers

27.- To get an idea of the breadth of the responsibilities, rights and 
duties of the Parliament, one must read Chapter III of the Constitution, 
from article 88 to article 132. I also suggest a reading of two 
publications interpreting these articles and their implications, written 
by Mr. Claude Moïse, one under the title of "Le Rôle du Parlementaire 
dans la Constitution de 1987," published in 1996 in the brochure "La 46è
me Législature du Parlement Haïtien," and the second titled "Un Pacte 
Electoral, une Fois pour Toutes: Le Cas du Sénat," recently published in 
Le Nouvelliste. In the first article Moïse reviews the role of the 
legislative branch in the new political system and the means available 
to it for action and oversight. In the second, after a plea for an 
electoral covenant that, in my view, would also be a prelude to a real 
pact for governance, he analyzes the dilemma posed by the pace of 
turnover of the Senate based on three scenarios that take account of the 
present situation in the Upper Chamber. 

28.- Meanwhile, one has to know that it is essential to reinforce the 
legitimacy and leadership role of the parliament if the democratic order 
is to be consolidated and well conceived policies implemented for 
sustainable, equitable development. In the overall context of 
modernization of the government, this institutional reinforcement will 
be decisive in enabling it to represent the Haitian people effectively. 

29.- In practice, however, how is the parliamentary institution 
organized for the performance of its function? As you already know, the 
Haitian parliament is a bicameral legislative body elected by direct 
suffrage, made up of twenty-seven senators, three for each of the 
country's nine departments, and of eighty-three deputies, one for each 
election district. One-hird of the Senate is replaced every two years. 
Senators are elected to terms of six years and the deputies to terms of 
four. They may be reelected indefinitely. 

30.- To perform its assigned functions the Parliament has four offices: 
bureaus, parliamentary committees, budget committees and the conference 
of chairmen. I will briefly review the composition and role of each 

The Bureaus 

31.- The Chamber of Deputies and the Senate each have a Bureau 
consisting of the chairman, vice chairman, treasurer, and two 
secretaries. The Bureaus have charge of the administrative affairs of 
the Parliament and its day-to-day business. They play an essential part 
in the legislative process because bills of law have to be submitted to 
them for recording and distribution to the parliamentarians and to the 
parliamentary commission involved. 

The committees 

32.- There are nineteen committees in the Chamber of Deputies and nine 
in the Senate. Each is named for the sector or ministerial department it 
deals with: agriculture, education, health, finance, etc. Each is headed 
by a chairman and its members represent all political groups and 
parties. They review and analyze bills of law and propose amendments as 
appropriate. They can neither enact nor reject laws. They do study them, 
however, and submit them with recommendations to the plenary body, which 
then does vote on them. When circumstances so require, special 
committees are formed to consider a specific request or bill. For 
example, when a new PM is designated, a special committee is appointed 
to examine his record and make recommendations to the plenary body. This 
special committee is dissolved once the PM-designate has been ratified 
or rejected. 

Budgetary committees 

33.- In addition to the parliamentary committees, there are two 
budgetary committees, one in each chamber, charged with studying the 
Budget of the Republic and making recommendations to the government and 
their respective plenary bodies. 

The conference of chairmen 

34.- The members of this body are all the chairmen of the committees and 
leaders of all the political groups in each chamber. The conference 
provides a forum for discussion of the legislative calendar and arrival 
at a consensus on the priorities and deliberations on the subjects under 

The administrative functions of secretariat, records and maintenance are 
grouped under the heading of General Services (Services Généraux) and 
performed by the permanent staff of the Parliament, which in 1998 
numbered about 178 in the Chamber of Deputies and 171 in the Senate. 
This means that, when the Parliament meets as a national assembly, the 
parliamentarians and their personnel combined add up to a population of 
459 persons. 

Institutional constraints on the Parliament 

35.- Analysts agree in acknowledging that the institutional framework in 
which the work of the Parliament is done is poorly conceived. The legal 
framework is weak, wanting in regulations to link the organization, 
roles, structure and operations of the Chamber of Deputies and the 
Senate. The internal rules and procedures for the guidance and conduct 
of deliberations are incomplete. The result is improvised sessions that 
are held behind schedule and are of limited effectiveness. Moreover, the 
lack of a parliamentary tradition in Haiti has contributed to a poverty 
of knowledge and experience in parliamentary practices and procedures in 
a majority of both the members and of their support personnel. Besides, 
the fragmentation of the forty-sixth deprived it of the leadership 
required to strengthen the institution. 

36.- There is at present no law on parliamentary career development, or 
any policy on recruitment, standardization of posts, remunerations, or 
performance criteria to ensure the presence of nonpartisan professional 
staff to track the operations of the parliament. The support staff are 
not civil servants, but are recruited directly by the parliamentarians 
themselves. This situation has resulted in a high turnover and the 
absence of a core of experienced support staff to assist and guide 
freshman parliamentarians. Though most of the parliamentary personnel 
are young, enthusiastic and devoted to their jobs, they need more 
specific training in legislative affairs. At present the Parliament has 
neither the internal capacity nor the money to provide that training. 
The day-to-day business of the parliament is further hampered by a 
shortage of basic office supplies and equipment, such as paper and pens, 
typewriters, fax machines and more specialized equipment for 
transcription, recording, security and communications, which are in 
severely short supply. 

37.- The Parliament generally runs into difficulties in the preparation, 
management and finalization of its budget. It constructs its own budget, 
which, however, is subject to approval and amendment by the Ministry of 
Finance. This de facto situation places the Parliament in the 
paradoxical situation of approving the Budget of the Republic without 
having the indepe