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#5266: Durban to Dorce on Aristide/Factory Jobs, etc. (fwd)

From: Lance Durban <lpdurban@yahoo.com>

Kathy Dorce's response to my earlier post deserves some comment.  She

   ... a person might be forced to accept the facts:  the vast
   majority of people in Haiti want Aristide and his party to
   occupy the seats in the government, no matter what they told
   any blan who asked them what they would do in the election.
   Tough nut to swallow but swallow it you must.

Kathy seems to have misunderstood my post which refered to various
shortcomings of the PREVAL Administration.  In the May elections and no
doubt in any future presidential election, people will be voting for
"change".  That means Mr. Aristide more often than not, and I have no
problem with that.  Heck, that is what my post was calling for in the
first place, a change in leadership and direction... someone (anyone) who
can get the country off square one.  And to the extent that Mr. Aristide
enjoys popular support, he would seemingly already have a tremendous jump
on the various pygmy political parties which constitute his opposition.

Kathy then continues...
   I am no economist, admittedly, but even I get that manufacturing
   is not going to give poor people a living wage.  A wage that can
   possibly change a life if a person works hard enough...in Haiti,
   there is no such thing as working hard enough in a manufacturing
   job to change one's life. ...If I were a betting person, I would
   wager that those men (Aristide and Preval) and others are looking
   to see how agribusiness may be restored....

I have nothing against agribusiness, although that is certainly not my
field, but the reality is that Port-au-Prince has grown from some 50,000
people in 1950 to well over 1 million (closer to 2 million) today and
these folks are NOT going to migrate back to the countryside anytime soon.
 Indeed the very term "agribusiness" conjures up in my mind a non-labor
intensive agriculture which is not going to make much of a dent in the
numbers of unemployed masses.

Factory wages are low by U.S. standards, BUT there are thousands upon
thousands of people in Port-au-Prince who would love to have one of those
rare jobs, because their present economic situation is unemployed misery
without the social safety net that one finds in a developped country.  A
factory job can feed you, clothe you, house you, and maybe even educate
your kid.  Furthermore there IS some upward mobility.  Most of the
supervisors and at least half of the people sitting behind computers in
our electronics plant started out as direct labor (workers) at $3 a day! 
This includes payroll people, data input personnel, engineering documents
clerks, etc. etc.  Our management long ago figured out that we can do
better promoting the best of our workers for these jobs than hiring from
outside.  Our workers know the parts, the names of the other workers, and
we know their temperment, capabilities, initiative, and drive.  The fact
that it helps our labor relations to promote from within is really just an
added benefit.  All workers have to be "literate" to fill out the job
application, but we are definitely looking for those who are not only
literate, but "promotable".       

And finally, when I commented how I had been struck by how welcoming the
Dominican authorities were to new potential investors, Kathy responded...

   Do you suppose they will import Haitian workers to do the slave
   labor, I mean manufacturing assembly line jobs?  Just a thought.

Ironically, there HAS been talk about opening up industrial parks in the
Dominican Republic on the border and allowing Haitian day workers to
travel back and forth.  To me it is simply a shame that Haiti cannot
figure out how to use its own people to grow Haiti, but you certainly
can't blame the unemployed Haitian who may eventually be commuting to a
day job in the DR on the Malpasse/Jimani border to feed his family.

To get back to the first thought, the real uncertainty in Haiti is in
knowing what sort of changes an Aristide Administration would promote. 
Aristide himself has been understandably reluctant to stand too close to
the Preval Administration, at least publically.  Similar to Gore's
reluctance to get too close to Bill Clinton... though for other reasons,
of course.

The thing that leaves room for hope is that Aristide is intelligent enough
to learn from Preval's mistakes and possibly even modify some of his own
positions.  In the latter category it will be interesting to see what
happens to Teleco.  Privatization has really become a no-brainer and most
Latin American government's are getting out of the telephone business as
fast as they can.  Preval's 5 year delay has paralleled a steep decline in
the value of Teleco as technology has left it behind.  With the
proliferation of cell phones, the wealthy elite have largely lost interest
in the subject, but if Aristide is able to change direction and unload the
Teleco dinosaur I, for one, will be impressed.   
Lance P. Durban

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