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8276: ECONOMIC ASPHYXIATION + POLITICAL ISOLATION = INCREASED SUFFERING FOR HAITI (fwd)





From: Max Blanchet <maxblanchet@worldnet.att.net>

June 1, 2001


ECONOMIC ASPHYXIATION + POLITICAL ISOLATION =
INCREASED SUFFERING FOR 8 MILLION PEOPLE

Haiti's position as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere is well
known.  Its rank among the 34 least developed nations of the world, equally
known.  That today, the country is embroiled in a "complex" political crisis
engendered by political adversaries vying for the vote of the population, is
the false image that has been  allowed to eclipse the reality of the actual
state of affairs in Haiti.

It is an insult and an affront to tell the Haitian people - who are
committed
to the economic and democratic development of their country - that "the
solution" lies in giving a tiny political minority what that minority could
not rightfully earn at the polls - a share in the political governance of
the
country.  It is immoral and wrong to withhold from the Haitian people access
to international financing under the pretext of a "political crisis" which
is being manipulated by a political minority and sustained by much stronger
allies.

Hidden behind the highly "media-ized" images of the so-called political
crisis are the true causes of the suffering of the Haitian people:

    The complete cut-off of international funding to Haiti, while the
Haitian Government is forced to maintain an onerous debt repayment schedule
to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; and

    An already precarious economic situation exacerbated by this so-called
"political crisis."

Today's so-called "political crisis" is deepening an already 3-year old de
facto hold on international financial assistance to Haiti.  This began in
1998 when the 46th Legislature, dominated by the political party OPL, today
the principal spokes party for the 15 party opposition platform called
Convergence Democratic, made the calculated decision to block ratification
of
four critical loan agreements negotiated by the Government of Haiti with the
InterAmerican Development Bank ("IDB"):

    A 50 million dollar loan agreement for rural and secondary roads;
    A loan agreement to reform the potable water system;
    A loan agreement to reform the primary education system; and
    A 22.5 million dollar loan agreement to implement Phase I of a reform
of
the national health care system.

The 3-year history of the blocked 22.5 million dollar health care loan
agreement is symptomatic of the true crisis in Haiti.

On July 21, 1998 the Haitian Government and the IDB signed a 22.5 million
dollar loan for Phase I of a project to decentralize and reorganize the
national health care system.  The project called for a 22.5 million dollar
loan from the IDB plus a 2.5 million dollar participation from the
Government's own funds.  The need to reform the health care system then, as
now, is urgent:

    1.6 doctors, 1.3 nurses and .04 dentists per 10,000 Haitians;
    40% of the population with no access to any form of primary health care
whatsoever;
    a tuberculosis infection rate of 5 per 1,000 Haitians;
    and an estimated HIV positive population of 300,000.

The project would among other things:

    permit 80% of the population targeted in Phase I of the project to have
access to primary health care through the construction of low cost clinics
and local health dispensaries;

    train community health agents;  and

    purchase medical equipment and medicines.

This would lead to:

    a drop in the infant mortality rate from 74 per 1,000 births to 50 per
1,000 births;

    a drop in the juvenile mortality rate from 131 deaths per 1,000 to 110
per 1,000;

    a drop in the birth rate from 4.6 to 4;  and

    a drop in the general mortality rate attributable to the lack of proper
health care from 10.7 per 1,000 to 9.7 per 1,000.

But in order to be implemented by the IDB, the loan agreement had to be
ratified by the Haitian parliament.  So in October 1998, the Government's
Minister of Health presented the project to Haiti's OPL dominated 46th
Legislature.

The Ministry waited and waited for ratification of the loan agreement.  The
Haitian people waited and waited for this first step to improve health care.
Where was the debate?  Who could oppose a loan so urgently needed when it
was
clear that national revenues alone would never be sufficient to adequately
fund Haiti's health care system?  Nothing.  Parliament failed to meet and
when they did, failed to obtain the necessary quorum.  They purposely
allowed
their terms to expire in January 1999, while stalemating every effort of the
Executive to put in place an Electoral Council to organize new elections.
The strategy was clear: undermine every effort of the Executive to improve
the living conditions of 8 million people by paralyzing the nation.

The four IDB loan agreements - rural and secondary roads, potable water,
primary education and health care reform, all totaling nearly 200 million
dollars - lay dormant and for all practical purposes were lost.

In October 2000, after the installation of the 47th Legislature, the new
parliament voted immediately to ratify the much needed health project along
with the three other vital IDB loan agreements.  The official decree was
published in the Government's official newspaper on January 8, 2001.
Immediately the Government and IDB collaborated to update and revise the
project.  Haitians were heartened when in early March the IDB announced that
it fully intended to work with the new Haitian Government and finance
projects already in the pipeline.

March 2, 2001 when a new Minister of Health was appointed, he continued to
work on this priority project. And shortly thereafter he notified the IDB by
formal letter that the 4 conditions required of the Government under the
loan
agreement had been fulfilled.  With these conditions satisfied, such formal
notice given to the IDB and Haiti current on its debt payments to the IDB,
all the conditions required for the execution of the loan agreement were in
place.

But the IDB never responded to the Minister's letter, nor have they begun
the
execution of a project so urgently needed.  Instead in mid-May, amidst
rumors
that the IDB was shutting down its offices in Haiti, Haiti's IDB offices
announced that the country representatives and top staff had been "called
into Washington for consultations."

Today in Haiti the needs of 8 million people are being placed on a balance
against the political discontent of a tiny minority and the proclaimed
adherence to the international community's self-serving principles of
multiparty politics and the rule of law.  The IDB's failure to sign the loan
agreement is an indication that the balance is tipping in favor of the
political discontent of that tiny minority - even when under the
international community's own rules the facts weighs heavily in favor of the
8 million Haitians being made to suffer:

    First, in direct contradiction to the OAS December 2000 official
Electoral Report, the international community has allowed to prevail in the
media the false perception that all 7,500 electoral races run on May 21st
were defective, and must be re-done, when in fact the OAS only challenged
the
method used to calculate the vote percentages in 6 to 9 senate races;

    Second, allowing Convergence Democratic to trample unfettered on the
rights of the over 60% of the Haitian electorate who voted their leaders
freely and fairly without ever mounting a defense to every person's
fundamental right to vote seriously calls into question the international
community's commitment to the democratic process and the rule of law when it
comes to Haitians;

    Third, concrete and public commitments by the Government to re-run the
contested senate seats and, if necessary, find the needed consensus to
reduce
by 2 years the terms of all members of parliament elected on May 21st, and
appoint yet another replacement electoral council to organize these
elections, have been repeatedly marginalized and indeed ignored each time
the
representatives of the international community state publicly that "the
parties to the political crisis in Haiti are refusing to compromise";

    Fourth, extremist positions taken by Convergence Democratic, including
the appointment of  "an alternative president" and maintaining their
so-called option zero position that all races be re-run have not been met
with any forceful public opposition by representatives of the international
community never hesitates to label the Government's efforts as "inadequate
or insufficient";

    Fifth, the repeated and steadfast refusal of Convergence Democratic to
even meet with the Government has not been publicly criticized by
representatives of the international community and only labeled as
"unfortunate";

    Sixth, the flippant and cavalier comportment of Convergence Democratic
in the face of the economic crisis gripping the nation (rejecting the
Pantheon Museum as a site for negotiations for fear of the size and quality
of chairs on which they will be seated) has never provoked outrage on the
part of the international community nor ever caused them to publicly
question
Convergence's intentions to engage in good faith negotiations that can lead
Haiti out of this crisis.

end