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#4370: Blanchet and Hoover Both Right on Economic Development; Simidor comments (fwd)


Max Blanchet's argument, as I understand it, is that Haiti needs major 
infrastructure readjustments and a culture of democracy, in order to compete 
even on the lowest rungs of the global economy. This is true enough.  Haiti, 
in its current dilapidated state, cannot use the comparative advantage of its 
proximity to the US market to get its economy going.  The Preval government 
doesn't even have the pretense of a development agenda. Band-Aid solutions 
that reward one's allies (les petits projets de la présidence) are the only 
game in town.  Macroeconomic investments and long-term development planning 
have not been much of a priority with the crisis governments that have been 
in power for the last 15 years.  

Julie Hoover looks at microeconomic initiatives, using her insider's grasp of 
the US economy to identify specific nods where Haiti might stake a claim in 
the world of electronic sous-traitance.  Why not?  There may be all kinds of 
electricity shortages in the Port-au-Prince suburbs, but there is a narrow 
band of neighborhoods around the National Palace where the electricity stays 
on 24 hours a day for security reasons.  There is ample space in that narrow 
cordon for Haiti's electronic miracle to unfold.

The problem with microeconomic projects is that they are only drops in the 
bucket, and right now the bucket is almost empty. It would take many small 
miracles to create the critical mass necessary in order to influence policy 
on the macroeconomic level.  But there are all kinds of small miracles 
waiting to happen in every sector of the Haitian economy: tourism, domestic 
energy, agriculture, manufacture, etc. Added momentum will occur when the 
diaspora, besides collecting nickels and dimes to build churches and other 
beautification projects, pools its savings together and invests in local 
development projects throughout the country.  

People on the left who dreamed of a jump from feudalism to socialism are now 
pondering the last 15 years in terms of opportunities wasted and the triumph 
of a new paradigm of populism and increased dependency.  In hindsight, the 
bloodiest of revolutions would have been less costly.  Conditions were indeed 
ripe, between 1986 and 1989, for a democratic revolution.  But without a 
revolutionary party to lead the people, that opportunity too was wasted.  
Today, the struggle is to build democratic institutions, as a prerequisite 
for a stable government and the rule of law.  Haiti can ill afford another 
dictatorship, no matter how well intentioned in its beginnings.  Populism and 
a festering economy are after all the ideal breeding  ground for fascism.

With a functioning democracy and social peace once again possible, the 
diaspora and the private sector would have the confidence needed to invest in 
the country's future.  A reinvigorated popular sector (not the parodies of 
popular organizations that have emerged recently) would be more apt to 
pressure the government for a real development agenda.  But I'm afraid all 
this will sound too simplistic for those who believe Haiti's problems to be 
intractable. Indeed, the rosy picture I've just brushed doesn't factor in 
what the US and the international financial institutions have in mind for 

Daniel Simidor