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a533: Crisis of confidence in Haiti: a lavalas ostrich's point ofview (I) (fwd)

From: Hyppolite Pierre <hpierre@irsp.org>

Much has been said on the list about what has been going on lately in Haiti. It has been quite unpleasant for all of us who would like to see this democratic experience succeed in real terms for all Haitians, at home or abroad. Unfortunately so far, all we can positively attest to is that at last, the poor majority is being acknowleged as an essential factor in Haiti's development. We must all however
realize that it is necessary to move from the stage of
acknowledgement, to that of accomplishment.

If the present leadership continues on hoping for remittance from the international community in the current political context, they are clearly waiting for what we call in Haiti, "la mane du ciel" (a gift from the sky). There are however concrete things that the government can accomplish.

We can start out by using Lance Durban's argument in his post last Monday about taxation. With a decent, rational, and well-structured system of taxation, Haiti can still survive and even make strides towards development. (I have incidentally, posted this economic analysis on the IRSP's website in the "Economic" section, with Lance's consent).

Even before such structured system of taxation however, or perhaps for such an idea to become reality, the Government of Haiti (GOH) must be willing to do the following:

1-Draft decent laws and regulations that are equitable, and can positively affect society across the board;
2-Make the necessary administrative reforms that will render those laws and regulations effective.

Currently, we are boxed inside this idea, that for true judicial reform in Haiti, we need massive help from foreign governments. Once again, this is not true. To make those laws, what the GOH needs to do first is reinforce the Ministry of Justice by: hiring mostly young new law school  graduates from law schools in the capital and the provinces, who would work under the seasoned and experienced leadership of Haitian attorneys.

That is a lot cheaper alternative than those self-described consultants. They would also need to work with specialists in the field that they would be drafting regulations about. They would work for instance with public health officials from the Department of Health, or engineers from the Department of Public Works for proper drafting of related laws.

Under the worst circumstances, (i.e. government is totally  broke) the Minsitry of Justice could simply hand-pick from the State universities some of the brightest students to work on drafting those legislations, and have them work for a reasonable stipend, rather than a salary. Those students would gain in the process great legal experience, while helping their country towards a more rational society. After all, let's not forget that students at the State universities practically go there for free, at the expenses of Haitian taxpayers. It would only be a fair and reasonable way for them to pay back.

The groups that are directly affected by those laws could have the opportunity to debate their resonableness at public forum, very much like this is done at the State level in the United States. Once those rules and regulations become effective, they would have to be impartially applied, regardless of one's political power or connections.

Haiti suffers from a judicial crisis that has always affected society at every level, and has always made it possible for wicked leaders to appear strong, and govern based on their own rule. From that perspective, the need for the rule of law has always been supplanted by individual rule. This style of governance or lack thereof, has consistently hampered the country from moving towards development. There is a great need for laws in Haiti regarding everything: from zoning laws, to investment, to private and public vehicle (mostly public) circulation and maintenances, to home building and construction, to market place, to school administration and curriculum, etc.

In fact, if laws and regulations can be both adopted, and vigorously and equitably enforced, government would thereby be successful in at least three ways:

1-Increase the level of confidence in society amongst potential Haitian and foreign investors (i.e. economic benefit for society);
2-Increase revenue thanks to those who violate the law (i.e. economic benefit for government and hopefully, society at large);
3-At least offset the administrative cost of methodically and vigorously applying those rules, by charging those who are found in violation of such (again, economic benefit).

For such a legal system to work on the other hand, the judicial branch would have to be much more independent from both the executive and the legislative branches of government.

I will not expand any further on this issue, even though there is much more to be said and perhaps expand upon. Nevertheless, this is an area where I am sure that the GOH can most certainly succeed. The biggest impediment to its success are  politicians themselves. Therefore, the first necessity is for the present government to have the political will to see that the judiciary is both independent and relevant.

So long as Haitians do not begin to experience the effect of the law in their personal lives, Haiti will remain what it is now: a sad case of failure. It is incidentally from the strength of the judicial system that Haiti's economic ills will begin to find effective cure. It is not from getting an envelope with a 550 million dollars check, from international foreign institutions. The law is where I see the government can effectively begin to make a dent in Haiti's underdevelopment cycle. But such success requires something else called administrative strength, which we will tackle in another post.

Hyppolite Pierre