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29354: Leiderman: comment: Milot, Model Cities and Mixed Mecca-phors (fwd)

Stuart Leiderman <leiderman@mindspring.com>

dear Readers:

thanks for posting Ron Daniels'/Haiti Support Project[HSP]'s trip report, "jubilantly declar[ing]...spectacular success" in scaling Haiti's once-impregnable Citadel.  it looks like the delegation deserves credit for a successful impregnation all around.  the trip to the North Coast seemed to have a fair and extensive representation of Haiti(an) and Black World supporters, per: October 4, 2006. Press Advisory/Notice of Press Conference. Pilgrimage To Citadel Will Launch Model City Initiative In Haiti. <http://www.haitiforever.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=16917&sid=69c130cf05955eef312331feac019bfc> and,  looking around the web, I see a nice picture and brief note by the U.S. Embassy-Haiti <http://portauprince.usembassy.gov> and a journalist's account of the trip, "Haiti Represents More Than Chronic Poverty" by George E. Curry, is posted in the October 12th Seattle Medium <http://seattlemedium.com/news/Article/Article.asp?NewsID=73112&sID=34>  the purpose was to promote the Milot-Citadel area as a future "mecca for cultural-historical tourism and economic development" but it seems to have been an invitation-only affair.

the press release and other coverage sent me on a brief web-chase for details about Milot, Mecca and HSP's Model City concept because I'm also an advocate of model communities -- the Journal of Haitian Studies [Fall 2002] published my detailed proposal for one that would showcase the best that all Haitian communities nationwide, in a kind of exposition setting.  but I wrankled at Daniels' use of such a strikingly Islamic term as "Mecca" for this vision of a future Milot and mass-ascents to the Citadel.  [as early as 12 July this year, he had used that "M" when addressing the "Diaspora Reconnection Forum" of Dumarais Simeus' in Port-au-Prince.  <http://www.tbwt.org/index.php?option=content&; task=view&id=774&Itemid=41>]   this is really mixing metaphors, but I guess it's the kind of vaunted lingo that'll attract niche tourists, i.e. even when things sacred, nothing is sacred.  I expect someday even Lower Manhattan will be a "Mecca for anti-terrorists," Gonaives a "Mecca for landslide engineers," and Cite Soleil a "Mecca for enthusiasts of simple living."  there's no end to it, is there?

lingo aside, I agree there's a place for tourism in local economic development as long as local people want that kind of intervention and responsibility and if they have a chance to decide the matter.  does Milot?  I looked for background information about HSP's 5-year Model City proposal for Milot, but couldn't anything on the web; even HSP's old website seems to have been yanked.  I urge Dr. Daniels to favor us with some details.

indeed, I've often thought there should be some actual model cities in Haiti, places where the best practices of planning, health and hygiene, local self-reliance, full employment and alternative energy could be demonstrated and spread throughout the country so that all towns and villages are simultaneously raised over the next generation.  for Milot, HSP has pledged to raise $100,000.  what's going to be innovative or model-worthy?  for example, after five years, will everyone be able to read? will there be no net increase of HIV-AIDS? will there be an adequate and progressive tax structure for municipal expenses? will there be a net decrease use of charcoal? will everyone use compost toilets and have leak-proof roofs?

what exactly are the characteristics of a model Haitian city?  in my experience, so many overseas nongovernmental organizations, churches and charitable groups seem to adopt Haitian towns and villages and then get very territorial and possessive about them.  this is a kind of "a-la-carte" theory of development.  does it actually promote nationbuilding in Haiti or just to a bunch of little Citadels scattered among the mountains?  I'd like to hear what HSP has to say about this.

coinciding with this month's pilgrimage, USAID announced a $492 million agreement "to support Haiti's economic and social development." [September 15, No. 2006/59 <http://portauprince.usembassy.gov/accord_de_donc.html> and October 11, <http://www.usaid.gov/press/releases/2006/pr061011.html>]  however, the links from these don't lead anywhere except to out-dated verbiage and much the same old vagaries [vagary = "an extravagant or erratic notion or action," L. "vagari" = to wander] fiscal year after fiscal year...for example, at <http://www.usaid.gov/ht>,  <http://www.usaid.gov/ht/economicgrowth.htm> and <http://www.usaid.gov/ht/education.htm>   there's all the usual lipservice about "person/months" of short-term emergency employment, but nothing about career-building; likewise, all the exhortations about "strong social demand for education" but not a single word advocating full national literacy.  a half-billion dollars flowing hither and yon, but no one wants Haitians to be able to read the fine print.  hmmm...

thank you,

Stuart Leiderman