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#807: This Week in Haiti 17:32 10/27/99 (fwd)

"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
newsweekly. For information on other news in French and Creole,
please contact the paper at (tel) 718-434-8100, (fax)
718-434-5551 or e-mail at <editor@haiti-progres.com>. Also
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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                   October 27 - November 2, 1999
                          Vol. 17, No. 32

by Melinda Miles

A recent article in the Washington Post quoted Leslie Voltaire, an urban
planning advisor for the
government of Haiti, as saying that "the informal economy is a survival
system." The informal
economy in Haiti is a direct result of the policies and programs that have
been forced on the
country by the government of the United States and the international
financial institutions, most
notably the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The recent announcement by
President Clinton at
the annual meetings of the World Bank and the IMF, which ushers in a new
package of debt relief
putting the IMF in charge of poverty reduction, creates a crucial moment for
us to talk about
what these policies of the IMF really mean.

Walking through downtown Port-au-Prince's boulevards is a lot like walking
through a yard sale
in North American suburbia. Everywhere you look you see second hand clothes,
and piles of old
shoes and leather belts. These items, used and thrown away by consumers in
the U.S., are what
constitutes the majority of the merchandise in Haiti's informal economy.
They undercut local
products and cause tailors and shoe makers to lose their livelihoods. These
now unemployed
skilled craftspeople find themselves peddling lower quality products. The
informal economy in
Haiti has really become a viscous cycle - the very items keeping the
unemployed alive through
"informal" labor were what cost them their jobs in the first place.

But perhaps the first question should be: why are the streets of Haiti
filled with used American
goods? Plans to make Haiti the "Taiwan of the Caribbean" began in the
1980's, and money was
loaned on the condition that it be used to set up export-oriented
industries, more closely linking
Haiti with the international economy. Today these industries are championed
as the saviors of the
economy. They have added 40,000 jobs in the last five years, but there is a
70% unemployment
rate among the population of eight million.

In fact, the emphasis on export-oriented development contributes to the
larger problem that
includes the dumping of used U.S. goods on the Haitian market. It also
explains the growth of the
informal economy as the only means of survival in Port-au-Prince and
throughout the country. It
causes massive migrations of people from rural areas to urban centers in
search of jobs and the
consequent overcrowding of the worst slums in the world. It helps us
understand the lack of
social spending by the Haitian government since most resources go to
servicing the external debt.

The nature of the interactions between countries in our global community is
evident in President
Clinton's symbolic promises to alleviate poverty and his subsequent
announcement that this relief
would be carried out by the IMF. The results of the IMF's policies in Haiti
are crystal clear. The
lowering of import tariffs is a strategy to make the export-oriented
industries of Haiti more
profitable (as most of them are owned by U.S. corporations) and to create a
market for used
foreign goods. But it has also been the immediate and absolute cause of
Haiti's rising
unemployment rate, the growth of the informal sector, and the loss of food
security. Haiti has the
lowest import tariff in the hemisphere at 3%, and also the lowest percentage
of food security in
the world. Neoliberal policies ignore the rural sector, forcing people to
migrate. This creates a
larger and more desperate work force, which arrives in cities where there
are too few jobs at
U.S.-owned sweatshops. At the same time, programs of privatization are
pushed ahead, and labor
rights are ignored. The informal economy is institutionalized through credit
programs. These are
the defining features of the neoliberal economy and structural adjustment
policies which the IMF
is imposing on Haiti.

President Clinton announced a package that would supposedly have the IMF
work to reduce
poverty and relieve the debt of heavily burdened countries... but only if
they commit to
restructuring their economies. We should all be ashamed of the debt burden
on the Global South.
Servicing debt is one of the main reasons that countries like Haiti have cut
social spending,
causing a disproportionate weight of the debt to be carried on the backs of
children. Structural
adjustment programs, central to the IMF's "reduction of poverty" efforts in
the past, have not only
caused greater debt, but they have increased poverty and human suffering.

The day after President Clinton's announcement, a group of representatives
from Jubilee 2000
campaigns throughout the world came together to discuss his speech. Clinton'
s "debt reduction"
package was discussed, and the Jubilee 2000 representatives formulated a
statement which
declared that the package does not meet the demands of the movement. The
conditions set for
debt cancellation were rejected by this group for all of the reasons
mentioned above.

The poverty in Haiti is directly linked in many ways to the very program
Clinton is making a
condition of debt cancellation. Let us hear the voices of the people
suffering from structural
adjustment around the world and demand something better. Let us demand that
debt cancellation
be de-linked from structural adjustment and that the key to poverty relief
be taken out of the
hands of one of the ultimate creators of that poverty: the IMF.

*The author is Coordinator of Haiti Reborn, a project of the Quixote Center.

Here is the Jubilee 2000 Statement, signed by several national campaigns
including Jubilee 2000
Haiti, following the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and
the World Bank in
Washington, D.C., September 29, 1999.

The agreement on debt reduction made at the Annual Meetings of the
International Monetary
Fund and the World Bank in Washington this week does not meet the demands of
the Jubilee
2000 international movement, as set out in its Rome Declaration of November

In particular, we reject the conditions set for debt cancellation and the
enhanced role of the
international financial institutions in imposing and policing the
implementation of those conditions.
Furthermore, the level and breadth of the proposed debt cancellation is
woefully inadequate. The
Declaration is attached.

We call on leaders to recognize the urgency of the debt crisis and to meet
in order to address the
need for definitive debt cancellation before the end of the Millennium.


Jaime Atienza, Campana "Deuda Externa, Deurda Eterna?", Spain
Juergen Kaiser, Erlassjahr 2000, Germany
Anna Awimbo, Jubilee 2000 Afrika Campaign (USA)
Martina Neuwirth, Jubilee 2000 Austria
Adrian Lovett, Jubilee 2000 Coalition, United Kingdom
Robert Reid, Jubilee 2000 - Debt Action network (Aotearoa/New Zealand)
Riikka Kamppi, Jubilee 2000 Finland
Camille Chalmers, Jubilee 2000 Haiti
Angela Temple, Debt and Development Ireland (Jubilee 2000 Ireland)
Greetje Witte-Rang, Jubilee 2000 Netherlands
Kjetil G. Abildsnes, Jubilee 2000 Norway
Humberto Ortiz, Jubilee 2000 Peru
Jose Rebeblo, Jubilee 2000 Portugal
Alejandro Bendana, Jubilee 2000 South
Olle Soderman, Jubilee 2000 Sweden
Vincent E. Edoku, Jubilee 2000 Uganda Campaign
Violet Sampra-Bredt, Jubilee 2000 Zambia, Ecumenical Steering Committee
Mrs. Barry Aminata Toure, National Coalition of Mali/Jubilee 2000
Carlos Pacheco, Nicaragua Jubilee 2000 Coalition

Also Signing:
Janet Gottaschalk, Alliance for Justice, Medical Mission Sisters
Jim Matlack, American Friends Service Committee, Washington Office
Johan Fryns, ASEED Europe
Barbara Larcom, Casa Baltimore/Limay
Susan Thompson, Columban Justice and Peace Office
Cornelio Rivera Centeno, Cooperativa de Servicios Multiples, Campesinos
Activos de Jalapa,
Doug Hellinger, The Development Gap
Njoki Njoroge Njehu, 50 Years is Enough Network
Melinda Miles, Haiti Reborn/Quixote Center
Jack Moynihan, Maryknoll Affiliates
Marie Dennis, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Rita Clark, Nicaragua US Friendship Office
Nancy Small, Pax Christi USA
Rev. Terry Provance, Preamble Center
Tammy Williams, Quest for Peace/Quixote Center
Rev. Douglas B. Hunt, United Church of Christ Network for Environmental and
Rosanne Rustmeyer, US Catholic Mission Association
Steve Bennett, Witness for Peace/Accion Permanente por la Paz

by Ray Laforest

Normally, October 12, Columbus Day, is when immigrants gather in Washington
D.C. in a yearly,
colorful display of ethnic and national pride to further their goal of
achieving some measure of
equality through general amnesty. This year, the event took place on
Saturday, October 16, 1999
with the participation of more than seven thousand marchers, ranging from
toddlers to seniors.

They proudly carried the flags of their respective countries of origin, the
Haitian "bicolor", the
exuberant Guatemalan "bandera", the colors of others like Mexico, Ecuador,
Colombia, and the
Dominican Republic. They hailed from as far as Liberia and Pakistan and
forcefully chanted "no
human being is an alien", that "we are here, and here we will remain", that
"we have rights
because we contribute."  They did so in many languages.

Speakers congratulated the demonstrators for their efforts. Some residents
of Michigan, for
example, traveled more than fourteen hours to take part. The organizers
stressed the need for
more coordinated work and greater unity, for the presence of ever larger
crowds at future
demonstrations, for a deeper understanding of the political forces opposed
to immigrant rights,
and for an even more aggressive implementation of our strategies. They also
made clear that the
struggle of immigrants for economic and social justice cannot be separated
from the struggle of
the rest of the working class in the U.S. and in their native lands.

This year's immigrant march and rally were organized by a relatively new
organization known as
the National Coalition for Dignity and Amnesty which includes trade unions
such as the National
Health Care Union, 1199 and DC 1707, AFSCME, as well as community groups
like Asociacíon
Tepeyac, the Rasanbleman Ayisyen pou Defann Dwa Imigran (RADDI), and the
Latino Worker
Center. They brought people from Illinois and Michigan, from New York, New
Jersey and
Connecticut, from Texas and Los Angeles, from Miami and Washington, D.C.  It
should be
noted, however, unlike the past, this year's action drew most of its
strength from the active
participation of East Coast organizations.  There was an impressive
participation by Haitians in
this year's march, with contingents from several Florida communities led by
community activists
like Marlene Bastien and Fritz Limontas.  RADDI also led a dynamic New York

The following day, Sunday, October 17, the leadership from most of the
participating regions
took part in a six-hour marathon session at a Conference Center outside
Washington D.C.  It
successfully hammered out the basis for an even broader and more effective
national organization
to carry forward the fight for justice for immigrants and all workers.

For more information, call RADDI at: (718) 284-0889.

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Please credit Haiti Progres.