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a535: Crisis of confidence in Haiti: the problem of effectiveadministration (fwd)

From: Hyppolite Pierre <hpierre@irsp.org>

The second biggest problem that Haiti has, at least as far as I can see it, is a problem of administration. We have hundreds of politicians all over the place, probably to Haiti's disadvantage. What we need mostly on the other hand is able administrators, which we have very few of. So politicians in or out of power may have the best idea or ideas. But to make that idea work, the need for worthy administrative backbone is essential.

One recent example of such is perhaps the story of AIDS in Haiti. Whatever the other causes may be, the GOH has been able to do some very effective work in containing if not curtailing the spread of AIDS in Haiti, winning the praise of Haitian and foreign institutions in the process. The interesting thing to know would be, who runs this program and how. The managers and workers in that program probably apply a set of established rules within their sphere, that have finally brought something positive out of Haiti. Can government at least borrow from their administrative strategies and techniques to render the State more effective?

What the success of the AIDS program shows at the same time, is that you don't need all those millions to get a program to work. Why then, is Haiti failing so badly, or at least give the perception of such? The secret is related as much to the matter of law, as it is to the issue of administration.

Anyone who for one reason or another, has bumped onto Haiti's so-called bureaucracy, knows well what I am referring to. Imagine on the other hand a State where not only do people, go to work, but also have specific administrative responsibilities and must meet some expected goals based on their qualifying attributes. Imagine in that context, government trying to implement a program which requires two managers, one supervisor, five regular employees, and one or two contractors. Instead, the office has one manager, seven superviors, 15 employees, and three contractors none of whom knows what their specific duties are. How then can such a government succeed in applying its ideas?

Not only is the administration itself bloated, but it may also be too politicized. Because of the obsession with politics in the administrative structure, decisions are based not on the feasibility of a project, but rather first and foremost on its political validity.

A case in point is the rice story. What may have started as a valid concern over the rising price of basic necessities, has finally turned out to be a political embarassment for the current leadership. The questions in this context that we could ask ourselves are:

1-Whatever happened to the Institute for Agrarian Reform (INARA)?
2-Was there any economic serious analysis done, prior to taking such a decision?

The current perception is, that INARA as an institute for agrarian reform, has failed in its goals. If it is so, then why, considering that the political will for its success was, or maybe still is, there. How come INARA has not so far proven itself to be that viable? Where its administrators consulted before government went ahead and ordered those shipments of rice from abroad? Did they have anything to say about any potential negative effect it might have on the production of rice in Haiti? Also, did INARA try to do too much in too little time and with limited resources (logistics), causing its supposed failure?

If INARA has so far failed in its mission as many pretend it has, the immediate reasons may be two-fold: administrative and political. Is the kind of political support that they used to receive no longer be there? Once again, a very good idea (agricultural reform), that may have failed or may be failing.

What the present government may have realized based on this rice scandal, is that, good politics/policies require effective administrative backbone. The government must also admit, that the best politics is effective administration.

One more question that I still have, and which hopefully many others do, is whether the economic validity of such decision was discussed at any level. Were there economists who candidly calculated, and communicated with government officials, the short and long-term effects of dumping rice at cheaper price on Haiti's market? Did they communicate with our politicians in charge the effect of such decision on agricultural production in the Artibonite region? Did they consider the strain on import revenues for the State, (which we are told, may have exceeded 100 million gourdes)?

Normally as to be expected, the traditional rice importers of Haiti would and must complain. But if in the larger picture, this was a reasonable decision that benefits society as a whole, all that government would have to do, is negotiate some kind of a compromise with them over their potential loss or reduction in profit.

Also, giving a quota of the imported rice to legislators was not a wise decision. After all, everyone knows that Haiti is a country with a culture of corruption. There was, is no guarantee that the true benefactors would have been or will be, the intended beneficiaries. Still, let us not forget that those who are complaining today would have probably done worse anyways. I personally have no confidence in them. Our focus instead, must remain on the effective administration of the State affairs, and on working towards improving the country agriculture. We must be careful not to undermine this economic sector.

Once again, by giving consideration first to politics (in this case the politics of rice) rather than administration (helping INARA to succeed), the GOH may have actually undermined that institution. We may never know if such is/was the case, considering that government is not forthcoming with the numbers, and very few able and worthy economists are sharing their points of view (based on the numbers, not their political point of view), about this issue.

Lastly, let us all remember that true leadership requires the courage to take very tough and difficlut decisions, which will be beneficial to Haiti in the long run.

Hyppolite Pierre