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a702: Pierre Jean responds to Pina on the Haiti-Rice Scandal (fwd)

From: Pierre Jean <pierrejean01@yahoo.com>

I read with complete disbelief Pina's  reaction to
Maurice Lafortune's comment. Lafortune, mind you, was
Minister of Commerce under Aristide at some point, so
he is not an unknown quantity to Lavalas, nor can he
be considered an enemy. So this post is primarily
addressed to Pina.


Let's take as a GIVEN your claim that a few families
control the lion's share of the rice market, creating
a major economic problem in the process. I have a few
questions for you:

1. WHO allowed these families to import cheap, mostly
subsidized American rice into the country?
2. WHO is responsible for protecting the interests of
local farmers and making sure that they were not hurt
by cheap imports?
3. WHO is responsbile for setting policies that will
create a level playing field for any player that wants
to either produce rice locally or import it?

It takes two to tango, Kevin. The rice importers acted
based on the willingness of the government to allow
these imports to happen. Nowhere in your argument have
you addressed the current administration's lack of
effort in finding a rational public policy solution to
combat these cheap imports. If the rice importers can
be faulted for benefiting from a "monopoly", the
government should be skewered for allowing it to
happen. You certainly overlooked that minute but VERY
important detail.

> It would certainly be wrong if a few politicos used
> this opportunity to
> benefit personally from an attempt to break the
> monopolies of the few
> families who control the rice import economy.

A few? A few? Kevin, how many SENATORS were involved?
Also, you call:
1. the formation of an illegal cooperative (Tout Pou
Nou is registered nowhere, not the least at CNC)
2. the granting to that illegal body of customs duties
exemption (the cooperative, even if it had been legal,
was not eligible for such exemptions)
3. the import of rice, as opposed to the purchase of
locally produced rice

you call "that" an attempt to break a monopoly?

How stupid were they? How about slapping some good ol'
non-tariff barriers on the imported rice (like
requiring specific packaging that would cost an arm
and a leg to the importers and make their goods less
competitive locally)? There are millions of tricks to
stopping goods from coming in the country without
creating an economic distorsion and without appearing
that you are targeting one group of oligopolists
specifically. Where was the Ministry of Commerce, of
Finance in all this?

Another thing: you implicitly admit that this exercise
was an attempt to break a monopoly (oligopoly is more
like it.) So this was a government-sponsored thing?
Yes? If that's the case then all of the participants
should be fired/kicked out of congress for stupidity
and incompetence because the only things they managed
to do were:

1. to royally piss off the common folk who did not
partake in the scam (hence the riots at APN three days
2. to screw DGI out of millions of gourdes of revenues
(at least the importers pay taxes, but it seems
Senators-cum-rice sellers don't have to, even if the
people don't benefit!)
3. to allow an even smaller number of people to enrich
themselves massively when they should have been
tending to the people's business (isn't there an issue
of conflict of interest somewhere?)
4. to make a mockery of the cooperative movement,
since the politicians dubbed their little group a
cooperative without taking the time to go through the
formal process
5. to make the Artibonite growers' fell like s***

> At the same time, for the
> President of the Chamber of Commerce and others to
> accuse the government of
> putting rice farmers out of business is
> opportunistic and flies in the face
> of the facts and history.

If you read what I wrote above, then YES, Lafortune
and his people are RIGHT to accuse the government of
putting rice farmers. They are just wrong about the
reasons for it.

By not lifting a finger to protect the rice farmers
(and this has been going on since the early 1980s),
all the administrations up to the current one have
basically thrown the Artibonite Valley rice farmers to
the wolves.   The government IS the primary culprit in
the demise of our local rice industry.

Finally, Kevin, what do you make of the government's
decision earlier this year to stop the waters of the
Artibonite River from flowing past the Peligre dam,
thereby preventing the irrigation of the valley? They
did so WITHOUT alerting the farming community. And now
these farmers are up in arms because their harvest is
threatened. If that is not the government DIRECTLY
killing our own agriculture, then I don't know what it

Pierre Jean

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