In an open letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Haiti-based hotel owner Richard Morse warns that in its current state, HOPE, a textile act that Ki-Moon has expressed support for, will simply enrich Haiti's wealthy elite, without making any significant difference to the country's poorest. What's more he adds, its likely to spark further migration from rural to urban areas, unless economic growth is also stimulated in the countryside.
Dear Mr Ban Ki-Moon,
Thank you for the attention you have brought to the country of Haiti.
In response to your New York Times Op-Ed piece I wanted to widen your perspective a bit.
I don't pretend to represent anyone.
I've been living in Haiti since 1985. I grew up in New England with my Haitian mother and my American father during the 1960s and 1970s.
Though my parents were both teachers, I'm nothing more than a musician/innkeeper. When I arrived in Haiti, the Creole pig, an indigenous Haitian pig which was the backbone of Haitian peasant life, had recently been wiped out because of a supposed threat of swine flu.
At the same time, Leslie Delatour and 'the boys from Chicago' (an
Economic club) were convincing everyone that Haitians ought to be importing
inferior rice and sugar instead of producing it themselves.
Those three acts (pig, sugar, and rice) have destroyed the rural lifestyle in Haiti and created overcrowding in the cities. Those three acts also enriched the Gang of Eleven, Haiti's economic elite, who aside from profiting from all that happens in Haiti, also gave us the repressive regimes of Henri Namphy, Raoul Cedras and Gerard Latortue.
Health care in Haiti, non-existent; public education in Haiti, non-existent; infrastructure in Haiti, non-existent; foreign aid getting to the people in Haiti, non-existent.
How many hundred million dollars were allocated to Gonaives since Hurricane Jeanne in 2004? The last time I drove through Gonaives I couldn't tell if more than a few hundred dollars had been spent.
The textile act that you're supporting (HOPE) will further enrich Haiti's wealthy elite but will only provide an opportunity for a small part of the Haitian masses to ‘tread water’, as most of the salaries made at these factories only cover transportation to and from work along with a meal at lunchtime. If, however, you're considering providing health care, a meal and an education for at least two children for all the factory workers plus a reasonable wage, then I think you're working towards something. Otherwise, I think you may be on the wrong side of the fence.
When cell phones first came to Haiti, the companies were run by Haitian elites and their representatives. The phones and phone cards were too expensive for the general population. The ‘Communication Club’ in Haiti was an exclusive club and meant to be that way. The ‘families’ wanted it that way.
Out of Ireland came Digicel to the rescue: inexpensive phones, low rates, superior service. Anyone who wants to communicate in Haiti can now communicate. Democracy in communication. Digicel has had so much success in Haiti that they've moved their Caribbean headquarters here. When the government saw Digicel's success they immediately wanted to raise all communication taxes. Digicel threatened to leave.
If you're preaching democracy in the Haitian economy, I'll support you, but if you're preaching the Gang of Eleven gets richer and every one else gets poorer then I wouldn't even know how to support you. The Haitian people vote the governments in and the gang of Eleven buys them.
The last time Mr Clinton was in town, I had the opportunity to meet him here at my home, the Hotel Oloffson. He asked me how long I've been in Haiti and I replied, ‘22 governments’.
On your recent trip, Mr Clinton asked us to forget our past and look towards the future. Haitians can't forget their past.
Aristide is a phenomenon created as a reaction to the way the Gang of Eleven likes to rule this country. Haitians have an obligation to try and forgive but we don't have the luxury to forget the trials and tribulations of our past.
We also have a culture with deep roots in the past that makes this comment a bit insensitive. I understand and want to believe that you and Mr Clinton have all the best intentions for Haiti, but some times decisions are made and the potential impact of the decisions aren't well represented in the decision making process.
We desperately need national production coming out of Haiti's countryside. Perhaps President Preval is not in a position to tell you this, but it’s a reality. We also need to provide jobs for the urban sector. That's where your HOPE bill comes in. If your support is only for the HOPE bill, everyone from the countryside is going to be moving to the capital looking for a job. Please don't forget the irrigation in the countryside, the farmers in the countryside, schools in the countryside and infrastructure in the countryside and don't forget that when you make your inevitable deals with the Gang of Eleven, they're often looking to suck Haiti dry and spend their long weekends in Miami.
Most Haitians aren't allowed into Miami.
My personal issues are with Culture and Tourism; I'll save those subjects for another day. Hopefully, by then, it won't be too late to correct the path we're heading down.