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5873: Durban to Poincy/Dorce on Int'l Economics (fwd)

From: Lance Durban <lpdurban@yahoo.com>

We hear their negative views on the sugar industry and manufacturing
respectively, but I would like to M. Poincy and Mme Dorce to provide some
positive workable solutions addressing the huge unemployment problem in
Haiti.  Let me elaborate:

                       Sugar Industry

Poincy argues against developing a Cuban-assisted sugar industry for Haiti
because it would not be able to compete in the international arena.  Well,
why not?  Sugar is labor-intensive, and Haiti has massive unemployment
everywhere.   Of course it would be nice if Haitian farmers could suddenly
join the internet age with Silicon Valley incomes, but that is not going
to happen.  To lament that a sugar industry would "waste" a valuable
Haitian resource (labor) on a low wage endeavor is to ignore the fact that
this resource is presently an unemployed drag on the Haitian economy. 
What other realistic alternatives would M. Poincy suggest President Preval
might give to Haitian farmers to enable them to earn fractionally more
than their current per capita income? And how do you finance anything
proposed?  I say let's not look a Cuban gift horse in the mouth, although
granted the history of government "sugar projects" in Haiti is hardly

(As an aside, when I mentioned this Cuban sugar industry aid project to a
Haitian cola industry acquaintance, he was quite interested.  Presently he
pays lots for US$ needed to buy imported sugar, his key ingredient, and
pricing is such that he can't compete with Busta, a bottled import from
Trinidad which uses its oil industry to supply a throwaway plastic bottle
in which to ship its sweet water.  Here is just one example of a local
industry -- bottling --- squeezed in recent years by the elimination of a
local sugar source). 

                    Manufacturing for Export

Kathy Dorce in effect says good riddance to any departing manufacturer and
implies that Haiti would better off if there were no assembly industry
jobs.  Fine, but what alternative employment  does Haiti have to offer its
population?  We can't all be Haitian painters!

Assuming all foreign investors are making millions off the backs of poor
Haitian workers belies an ignorance of the very competitive nature of the
world economy today.  Check out Levi Strauss, Warnaco, Kellwood, and some
of the other American sewing companies who have previously worked in
Haiti.  They are among the poorest performers on the U.S. stock market,
with virtually non-existent profits.  Why?  In part because they are
competing in a market flooded with inexpensive clothing from virtually
every low wage country in the world..

Haitian wages, while low, still provide a better standard of living than
that enjoyed by the unemployed poor of Port-au-Prince, and this explains
why factory jobs are such a valuable commodity.  Before closing down the
factories, it would be helpful if Kathy Dorce and other like-minded souls
would give us some idea of what the then newly-unemployed would do to
replace their lost incomes.

Manufacturing jobs anywhere require the development of employee skills. 
Industrial sewing may not be rocket science, but it does require training.
 Any replacement employment which Ms Dorce might propose will almost
certainly require even more training (and a better formal education as
well).  This is especially true if the wages paid are to approach what she
might consider respectable.  Unfortunately economic development does not
happen overnight; you have to take the first step long before you get to
the top of the stairs.  With a virtually non-existent system of public
education and all interest centered on the latest political twist, Haiti
seems unable to find that first step.

L. Durban

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