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#269: Taiwan a longtime friend in Haiti's need (fwd)
Taiwan a longtime friend in Haiti's need
By DON BOHNING Herald Staff Writer
July 30 th 1999 Miami Herald
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Through thick and thin, dictatorship and democracy,
for 45 years Taiwan has been one of Haiti's most consistent allies and
dependable dispensers of aid. In return, Haiti -- along with 28 other
countries, 13 of them in the Caribbean Basin -- recognizes Taiwan
diplomatically and supports its annual, unsuccessful, effort
to gain admission to the United Nations. Diplomatic relations between
Haiti and Taiwan were established in 1954, five years after the late
Chiang Kai-shek moved his government from the mainland. A few recent
bumps have been placed in the road by China's effort to diplomatically
isolate Taiwan, which it views as a breakaway province.
Officials say Beijing's resistance in the Security Council to U.N.
peacekeeping efforts in Haiti will make it impossible to renew a
300-member police civilian advisory mission when its mandate expires
Nov. 30. Still, the Taiwanese continue their projects in Haiti, funding
a variety of programs overseen by a five-member diplomatic mission
headed by Ambassador Chiou Jong-nan, a veteran diplomat. The dollar
investment is not large by international standards, but the impact is
considerable at a time much international assistance to the Haitian
government has been held up by an ongoing internal political impasse.
`Truly our friends'
``Taiwan continues to show Haiti that in times of crisis, they are
truly our friends,'' says Leslie Voltaire, a special advisor to
President Rene Preval. ``Taiwan is actively assisting Haiti in a wide
range of infrastructure projects, including housing development,
reforestation, agriculture, construction of an Olympic park, garbage
collection, school lunch programs, expansion of potable water and their
upcoming construction of a major thoroughfare.'' The most visible
evidence of the long-standing relationship are the dozens of
garbage and dump trucks, painted in bright yellow and blue, and
emblazoned with Taiwan's flag. They join 50 police cars and 200
motorcycles, a no-strings-attached gift from Taiwan to Haiti three years
ago to aid the country's fledgling police force. However, the days of
such unconditional aid are past, Ambassador Chiou said in an interview.
``Since last year we have entered a new era,'' he added, with
Taiwan's parliament demanding an accounting of its foreign aid.
``When Haiti asked assistance for a project, we used to just give a
check,'' said Chiou. Now, projects are assessed before they are funded
and monitored in progress. That, he says, is ``much more realistic, and
good for both sides.'' As an example, Chiou cites a 1.3 mile
construction project for a six-lane thoroughfare between the
international airport and Port-au-Prince that is to begin
in August and be completed late next year. A detailed plan was prepared
and specialists were sent from Taiwan to assess the project. The cost
estimate was reduced from $10 million to $8 million.
Notable aid to rice crop
The pride of the Taiwanese aid programs, however, is a 28-year-old,
$1.8 million-a-year rice production project centered at Pont-Sonde in
the rice growing area of the Artibonite Valley, north of Port-au-Prince.
The project, interrupted for 10 years by the tumult that followed the
1986 fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier, was re-established in 1996, says
Chiou. ``Before our specialists began helping them,'' says Chiou, ``they
were harvesting 3,500 to 4,000 kilos of rice per hectare [2.5 acres] per
harvest twice a year. Now they are up to 5,000 kilograms of rice per
harvest in only two years.'' Other current Taiwanese assistance projects
include a three-year, $6 million public school cafeteria program for
children 8 to 12 years old. There is also a $5 million investment
promotion program; funding for a women's professional training center
and for a technical training center; $3 million for the
first phase of a sports complex as part of a mega-development at the
old Bowen Field airport site in Port-au-Prince; and a $5 million,
five-year reforestation program. Taiwan also has agreed to aid with an
industrial zone once a site has been selected, as well as a low-income
housing project, and is involved in a joint venture with the
Inter-American Development Bank and European Investment Bank for
improving the water systems in Petionville and Jacmel.