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6303: Haiti's future hinges on reforms (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

Haiti's future hinges on reforms  By Canute James  FINANCIAL
TIMES              Published: December 19 2000 19:19GMT |

For Jean-Bertrand Aristide's aides, his five-year absence  from Haiti's
presidential palace appears to have been  nothing more than a minor
interruption. His inauguration  in February will allow him to complete a
job he started 10  years ago, they say. "In the next five years,
President Aristide will do what he  promised to do the first time, but
could not because of   the coup," says a senior functionary of Mr
Aristide's Lavalas Family party.  Mr Aristide, whose easy (92 per cent)
victory in last month's presidential election  was confirmed last week,
was overthrown in 1991, seven months into his term. He was forced into
exile by the military, with the support of Haiti's small but rich  and
powerful elite. Although he was reinstated on the back of a US military
invasion which routed the   military junta in 1994 to complete his term,
he complained then that he needed  more time to bring about the reforms
he had promised the 7.5m people of the  poorest country in the western
hemisphere.Mr Aristide, a populist and a former priest, is giving little
indication of what he will do after he takes office in February. "I will
work to bring peace to everyone, regardless of their economic position,
as long as you are Haitian," he said after  his election victory was
announced.His big  challenge will be to deliver and prevent
disaffection, while calming the  fears of the handful of rich Haitians
who in effect control the economy.
  "Mr Aristide's domestic challenges are tied to his ability to win the
trust of an
  extremely suspicious business class and elite as well as fulfil the
expectations of  impatient supporters who have been fed on his populist
rhetoric," says Michael
 Dash of New York University.  Mr Aristide will need substantial foreign
economic support. Haiti has a per capita  income of $250. Six out of
every 10 Haitians have no jobs.  Prof Dash contends that Mr Aristide has
only one route to follow. "His task is obvious - how to win back the
confidence of the donor countries who did not even send observers to the
presidential elections. He could do this by continuing   liberalisation
of the economy and taking a stand on drug smuggling in Haiti."   Foreign
donors and creditors are willing to give Haiti about $500m but have
predicated disbursement on economic reforms, including the privatisation
of  several state enterprises. Mr Aristide, who agreed to the reforms
while in exile, is now suggesting that he does not need foreign support.

 However, expanding the economy is one problem Haitians cannot resolve
by   themselves. Implementing the reforms that will unlock the promised
foreign funds
seems to be the only immediate path if Mr Aristide is to fulfil the
expectations of
 his poor supporters.
 He will also need foreign help to deal with a newer, damaging
development.Haiti's poorly policed shores are being increasingly
exploited by smugglers  transhipping narcotics from South America to
North America.  "My government is willing to give more help in dealing
with narcotics smuggling,"  says a diplomat in Port-au-Prince, the
capital. "We want to speak with the new   government about this and
other matters which concern us, including economic   assistance. All of
this, however, depends on the administration accepting that it needs to
change the electoral system."
 Foreign governments and observers stayed away from the presidential
Opposition parties boycotted the polls, saying they were rigged in Mr
Aristide's  favour.
 Mr Aristide's aides offer a different interpretation. "This will be
democracy for Haiti,"
says the Lav alas Family party official. "The most popular politician in
Haiti has
been elected by his people to lead them."