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$74: Good (?) News from Haiti: Driver replies to Durban

From: Tom F. Driver <tfd3@columbia.edu>

Lance Durban, while urging expansion of the garment assembly sector in
Haiti, writes:

>     In fact, the real Taiwan became a worldwide
> success story not because it fixated on  its small,
> poor  domestic market in  the '60s and  '70s, but
> rather, because it  had a private sector with the
> foresight to look for markets beyond its borders and a
> government which supported that effort. If only Haiti
> had the same...

The important point about Taiwan is that it did not BEGIN with emphasis
upon exports.  Deep in poverty at tne end of World War II, Taiwan's economic
development was accomplished in three managed stages:  1) building up
its agricultural sector so as to achieve self-sufficiency in food; 2)
encouraging manufacturing for domestic consumption using mainly domestic
raw materials; 3) only at last, and after the first two stages were well
in place, did Taiwan move into production for export.  This, it seems to
me, is the path that Haiti should take, and let me point out why.

In its present condition, Haiti is buying from abroad much of its food
and most of its consumer goods.  It has almost nothing to sell on the
world market but its cheap labor.  The global labor market is such that
Haiti will not make enough profit from labor to move itself upward.
Moreover, social conditions in Haiti are such that profits from the
export industry (which anyway are not huge) do not find their way back
into the kind of investments (whether State or private) that build up
the infrastructure and the educational system.  At best, the export
assembly sector in Haiti keeps a few (very few) Haitians on a kind of
treadmill. While that's better, no doubt, than falling off the
treadmill, it is no way to get ahead.

The economy in Haiti needs re-routing.  Actually, at present it seems to
have no route at all and is going nowhere.  It wants planning to move by
small steps in a direction that will benefit all Haitians, not just the
lucky ones who land a factory job, and not just the already-rich.  But
this in turn requires two things:

        --  a POLITICAL transformation to move the country beyond its
        present impasse.

        -- the will and the skill of Haiti's leaders to buck the
        pressure from the USA and the global financial institutions that
        do not want Haiti to feed itself nor to do much of its own
        manufacturing.  Instead, they want it to play in their ball
        game, where it will produce for THEIR profit and consume what
        THEY market.

Bandaids, borrowing, charity, and the lure of globalization are killing
Haiti.  I believe that it can only get well "the old-fashioned way."
That is, through self-reliance and savings and the kind of investment in
people that pays off in the future.

Tom Driver

Tom F. Driver
Sheffield, MA