Russell and Duenes

haiti once the emergency is over

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Canadian journalist, David Warren, notes that the outpouring of money given for Haitian aid has been overwhelmingly generous and that delivering food, water and other life-saving supplies is, on the whole, relatively inexpensive. It’s the months and years to come where the real “aid” challenge lies. To this he says,

Haiti is not a basket case from the absence of foreign aid. Quite the contrary. I lived many years in Asia, and much of my journalistic work was focused on “development issues.” I’ve seen the consequences of aid dependency with my own eyes. It is the same story everywhere, where people are desperately poor: they have no freedom, they are landless, everything belongs to an exploiting class. And that exploiting class is, almost invariably, “leftist,” and the nearly-exclusive beneficiary of foreign aid.

New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, also editorialized on continuing aid to Haiti and offers a good counterpoint to Warren. In fact, the United States truly does not send much aid to Haiti, and the historical sins against Haiti that have led to her current state are many and varied. Kristof is right to point out that the Haitian people are not hobbled by any inherent special proclivities for stupidity or corruption. Their land has been raped and pillaged. He is also right in his implicit argument that Haitians are hurt by western sensibilities against certain kinds of labor (i.e., sweatshops). What do they need? He writes,

Far more than most other impoverished countries — particularly those in Africa — Haiti could plausibly turn itself around. It has an excellent geographic location, there are no regional wars, and it could boom if it could just export to the American market. A report for the United Nations by a prominent British economist, Paul Collier, outlined the best strategy for Haiti: building garment factories. That idea (sweatshops!) may sound horrific to Americans. But it’s a strategy that has worked for other countries, such as Bangladesh, and Haitians in the slums would tell you that their most fervent wish is for jobs. A few dozen major shirt factories could be transformational for Haiti. So in the coming months as we help Haitians rebuild, let’s dispatch not only aid workers, but also business investors. Haiti desperately needs new schools and hospitals, but also new factories.

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Written by Michael Duenes

January 21, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Duenes, Economics

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