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a437: Revisiting a post of 5 years ago

From: Philippe Charles <pcharles@us.ibm.com>

Below is a note from Professor Dupuy that was posted to the Corbett
list 5 years ago. I am reposting it in the hope of getting some new
perspectives that I can look at 5 years from now.


Date: Wed, 05 Feb 1997 15:42:57 -0500
From: alex dupuy <adupuy@wesleyan.edu>

I would like to add a few thoughts on the recent exchanges on the question
of foreign investment, the economic policies of the Preval government, and
what alternatives, if any, does Haiti have at present.

First, it seems to me, the current conjuncture in Haiti can only be
understood in its global context.  The demise of the Soviet bloc meant not
only the end of the centralized and bureaucratic form of state socialism,
but also the discrediting of all forms of statism.  By this I mean models
economic development and social organization wherein the state plays a key
role in directing economic development, not only by encouraging
infrastructure development/expansion, but also by targeting key sectors for
support, by extending social services and other subsidies to the
population--redistributive or social democratic policies--by exercising
control over the central bank, by regulating foreign exchange, wages,
working conditions, protecting workers' rights, and certain domestic
industries through tariffs, subsidies, etc.  My point here is not that some
of these policies have been proven to be wrong or that they are unviable,
but that the historical context and the social forces that produced them
have been defeated politically.  This political defeat meant the victory of
the forces pushing for the unchallenged dominance of the neoliberal version
of market capitalism--a movement that began with the rise of Reagan in the
US and Tatcher in Britain, and which has now become dominant globally.

When Aristide came to power in 1991, his PM proposed a moderate social
democratic version of the "basic needs" model of development.  Because of
the political conjuncture in Haiti in 1991, Aristide and Preval's cabinet
had some room to manoeuver and they were able to negociate on somewhat
stronger grounds with the IMF.  His PM's economic program--I say his PM's
program because I don't think that Aristide himself ever understood or
much about economics--never got off the ground, however, and after
Aristide's overthrow he was compelled to abandon, and he subsequently
embraced, the neo-liberal program devised by the bilateral and multilateral
financial aid institutions.  Preval inherited this fait accompli, but has
made this policy his own.  This means that Preval has broken with the
democratic policies he once advocated and is now championing the neoliberal
model by aligning himself with the Haitian bourgeoisie and the faction of
the international bourgeoisie involved in Haiti.  Preval, in short, like
Aristide before him, made his choice.

The question is: Did he really have a choice but to accept the dictates of
the international bourgeoisie and its representative institutions?  My
answer is:  Of course he had a choice, and he made it.  To be sure, the
current historical balance of  forces and the weight of the international
system combine to make it very difficult for anyone to resist its
prescriptions, but social actors can also choose how they fight their
battles.  That is, if Preval really did not believe in the virtues of
neoliberalism he could have opted not to run for the presidency and
a member of the legitimate or democratic opposition--a necessary component
of any viable democracy--and as many former members of Aristide's
who are now in the parliament have done.

But, one could say, could Haiti really follow a different path by choosing
an alternative development model, especially one that defied the
prescriptions of the IMF?  There are no easy answers here.  First, let me
state categorically that Haiti cannot "go-it-alone," that is, it cannot be
autarchic.  No country in the world can, not even the US or Russia.
it follows that Haiti needs foreign investments, needs foreign technical
assistance, needs foreign aid, needs to orient its economy towards exports,
needs to import most of what it does not or cannot produce, etc.  And for
now it needs the continued presence of the UN peacekeepers who also need to
do more to insure order and the safety of citizens and foreigners alike in
the country until such time when a new national police force and a judicial
system can be put in place to take over those tasks while respecting and
protecting the civil and human rights of everyone.

This said, it does not follow that the neoliberal model.  Briefly put, that
model, as with every other economic model,  is first and foremost
politically derived and not just a matter of sound economics alone.  There
is no such animal.  It is derived from a certain vision of how best to
organize an economy and allocate resources, in this case one that calls for
maximum power and flexibility to be transferred to the private sector--that
is to capital--and reducing the state to a minimum of functions to support
the unhindered operation of the market (read: the social actors who control
it).  It is, in short, a model of capitalism that seeks to enhance the
of capital by getting the state to enact policies that give businesses as
much of a free hand as possible, and that simultaneously dismantle those
policies that strengthen the bargaining power of and the concessions made
the working classes (such as wage policies, social security guarantees,
family subsidies, access to universal health care, workmen's compensation,
educational subsidies, etc.)

But, clearly, this is not the only form of capitalism there is.  I'll point
to just one other form: the social democratic form still in vogue in Norway
and Sweden (though very much under attack in the latter).  To be sure,
is not Norway, but my point here is that one does not have to settle for
what the IMF dishes out.  One can, if one has a clear vision of where one
wants to go, and, if one is willing to mobilize the political support
necessary, negociate for better terms.  It is simply not true that small
countries like Haiti have no choice or no bargaining power.  Just think,
example, of the role that the refugee crisis played in pushing Clinton to
intervene in Haiti to remove Cedras and Co.  The US cannot afford to have a
destabilized Haiti, if only because it would threaten to unleash a renewed
wave of illegal migrants who would be heading north as well as create
problems for other Caribbean countries.   Haiti could also join with other
Caribbean countries to try to come up with a regional response to common
problems, create some alternative markets and trade patterns that would
benefit regional enterprises, etc.  The prerequisite to any of this,
however, is that a government that represents the interests of the majority
needs to be elected, not one that listens primarily to the Haitian and
foreign bourgeoisies.  In my view, the Preval government represents the
latter and not the former.  And for those who think that Aristide Redux
do the trick, I only have this to say:  If Aristide I was a tragedy,
Aristide II will be a farce.  I hope the Haitian people can see through him
and let him raise his family in peace.