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6631: Dirty money takes on new meaning in Haiti, where a buck can , be yuck (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

 Published Sunday, January 14, 2001, in the Miami Herald
 Dirty money takes on new meaning in Haiti, where a buck can be yuck
 BY TOD ROBBERSON___ Dallas Morning News

 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Most countries are trying to get rid of the
scourge of
 money laundering. Haiti is one place that could use all the freshly
laundered bills
 it can get. Haiti's currency, the gourde, has a definite penchant for
filthiness. Some bills in circulation are so covered with grime that the
denominations are no longer visible. Frequently, the dark green, purple
and red gourdes are sticky to the touch and carry a distinct odor. Some
residents warn that touching Haitian currency can be hazardous to one's
health, and anyone handling gourde bills is advised to give his or her
hands a good scrubbing before handling food. Then again, food actually
is part of the problem. ``What happens is, the street vendors exchange
the money while they're handling their food, so it gets all over the
currency,'' said Prime Minister Jacques-Eduard


 ``There are health effects,'' he added. ``I honestly believe that our
bills are printed
 with dark colors to make it harder to see the dirt.' With an average
income of only about $250 a year, Haitians typically compound the money
problem by stashing their cash reserves in private places where muggers
are less likely to find them. After spending a few sweaty hours hidden
in a shoe, nestled in a brassiere or tucked into a waistband, even the
newest bill quickly acquires the undeniable status of yucky. Haiti, the
Western Hemisphere's poorest country, lacks the financial resources to
retire older bills once they've become too worn out, officials explain.
Meanwhile, newly printed bills are being placed into circulation by the
Central Bank. But the international lending institutions responsible for
keeping Haiti afloat financially are threatening to withhold aid if the
practice continues, saying it is diluting the gourde's value to the
point of worthlessness. So most Haitians are stuck with the nasty old


 A trip down any street in the Haitian capital shows exactly how a clean
 acquires the appearance of a mechanic's cleaning rag. Street vendors
overflow the sidewalks, selling everything from grimy used tires and
greasy car parts to imported jewelry and perfumes. Entire sections of
the city have been taken over by shantytowns, consisting of tented shops
during the day that are converted into dwellings at night. With no
plumbing, the inhabitants wash themselves in ditch water, which almost
always carries raw sewage. Each transfer of a bill requires it to be
handled by at least two people, who, according to Prime Minister Alexis,
are very likely to live under such dire circumstances. ``In this
country, the economy is mostly driven by the informal sectors,'' Alexis
explained. ``The vast majority of business is conducted on the streets,
not in banks or stores. The currency is handled by so, so many people
every day.''