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9106: Haitians Fear Fall in Living Standard Amid U.S. Woes
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Haitians Fear Fall in Living Standard Amid U.S. Woes
By Ives Marie Chanel
Article Dated 9/22/2001
From: The Black World Today
PORT-AU-PRINCE, (IPS) - Ten days after terrorist attacks left more than six
thousand people dead or unaccounted for in the United States, Haitians
continue to worry about how the events will affect life in this country
heavily dependent on the U.S. economy.
Export-oriented assembly plants and remittances from Haitians living in the
United States are the major sources of income for this small Caribbean
nation of eight million.
In 2000, Haitians living in the United States sent back some 699 million
dollars. Although foreign aid has slowed to a relative trickle, it still
accounted for 193 million dollars last year, according to the Haitian
U.S. aid topped more than a billion dollars in 1994, when Jean Bertrand
Aristide was returned to the presidency, but has been all but cut off
because of a more than year-old electoral crisis here that has resulted in
The central bank, in a report, concedes that ''the prolonged political
crisis has been a major obstacle to the release of the foreign aid necessary
for development and investment projects''.
Minister of Foreign Cooperation Marc Louis Bazin noted Tuesday that
recession in the United States could affect Haiti's assembly industry.
''The American economy appears to be undergoing a gradual recession, with 5
percent of its workforce unemployed. The recent events will increase
unemployment in the United States, and will undoubtedly have an impact on
the purchasing power and consumption of Americans. As a result, there will
be fallout for the assembly industry here'', he said.
Haitian assembly factories, which employ more than 20,000 workers, last year
exported 245.1 million dollars worth of clothes and electronic equipment to
the United States. In 2000, this industry accounted for 7.2 percent of the
gross domestic product (GDP).
Haiti raised a further 7 million dollars last year by exporting mangoes to
the United States.
''Increasing unemployment in the United States will mean that Haitians will
only be able to send money abroad for emergency situations, such as
funerals, marriages, and other familial obligations. With a climate of fear
and uncertainty in the United States, Haitians will lose even more
confidence in their country's economy, and will no longer make long term
investments, such as in real estate'', Bazin said.
''The economy has been stagnant since the 1980s. According to not-yet
official figures, we expect this year's growth rate to be zero or below
zero'', said Ansy Pierre Louis, the central bank's vice governor.
Investors are claiming bankruptcy. All sectors of the economy are calling on
the government and opposition parties to resume the negotiations they broke
off more than a month ago so a solution to the political crisis can be found
and foreign aid can again begin to flow.
Twenty hours after the attacks on the United States, Haiti's currency, which
already had been rapidly losing value, fell by more than 4 percent. Monetary
authorities said the drop was at least in part explained by the freeze on
commercial flights between the United States and Haiti, which prevented
Haitians living in North America - and their money - from returning home for
The United States is considered here as a haven for Haitians of every
economic stripe. New restrictions in U.S. immigration policy will have
serious repercussions for the families back home of undocumented Haitian
workers living in the United States.
Even among legal U.S. residents from Haiti, the toll could be severe. ''The
loss of jobs that has already occurred in the airline and hotel industries
will have a considerable impact on the Haitian community,'' said Jocelyne, a
New York-based nurse who spoke with IPS after the attacks.
More than one million Haitians and Haitian Americans live in the United
As this country's main daily newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, wrote in its Sep. 11
edition: ''We cannot help but be affected given the number of Haitians
living in the United States and depending the way we do on the health of the
American economy for our daily bread''.
Supporters of Haiti's present government consider President George W. Bush
to be an enemy of Aristide, primarily because the military coup that toppled
Aristide in 1991 occurred during the Republican administration of Bush's
Nevertheless Aristide, the opposition, and foreign diplomats participated
this week in religious services in memory of the victims of the terrorist
Meanwhile, members of parliament have criticised Haitian consulates in the
United States for poor management after they were unable to provide any
information concerning Haitian citizens who may have been killed or were
missing in the wake of the World Trade Centre attack.
Some fifty Haitian nationals worked at the complex dominated by the Centre's
twin towers, according sources close to New York's Haitian community. The
consulate there has so far reported that five Haitians appear to be missing.
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