Haiti is a country of great social and economic potential. Many of its hardworking and industrious citizens are eager to join the global economy and participate in mutually enriching international exchanges.
Located in the western third of the Hispaniola island, Haiti has a population of over eleven million.
Among its many assets are beautiful beaches and majestic mountains, waterfalls, and historical monuments; a vibrant culture, including its outstanding literature, music, painting and crafts. Known for their hospitality and tasty cuisine; their strong independent life-force and entrepreneurial spirit, Haitians possess all the essential elements for a robust development.
If these features were coupled with a strong, effective and ethical governance, a vigorous and comprehensive program for the country’s social and economic growth, and an adoption of technological advances, it could spur the sorely needed economic development and social justice.
Alas, this is not the case. More than 60% of Haiti’s population have been living in extreme poverty for many generations. Instead of feeding itself and the world from fertile Caribbean soil – which has been damaged but can be restored – Haiti imports 70 percent of its basic food staples. A major reason is that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forced Haiti to do away with all import taxes, which opened its market to heavily subsidized products from abroad, especially from the United States.
Adding to this the effects of climate change, the 98% deforestation, the pandemic, an egregious lack of support for smallholder farmers, lack of access to healthcare and education, and the ever diminishing sense of hope, especially among the younger generation, the future looks bleak for many.
For most of the past year, Haiti has also been rocked by social unrest led by people who demand accountability for the $2,5 billion missing from a national fund, and the right of Haitians to a life of fairness, dignity and sufficiency. Unfortunately, taking advantage of this legitimate protest, gangs are using violence vying for territorial power, while resorting to kidnapping, targeted assassinations, and property destruction.
Yet, despite all that, life continues, and people persevere. Farmers are planting their crops, young entrepreneurs are building new businesses, doctors and dentists are healing their patients, researchers are making new discoveries, and artists create new works – life, in all its beauty and complexity persists.
If there was one thing we would like to see in Haiti, it is the creation of a single, comprehensive, national development plan, with a clear path to its full implementation. Such a plan would give the country and its citizens directional clarity and a sense of common purpose for the next ten to fifteen years to achieve the desired lasting change.
Haiti has a wealth of highly educated professionals with superb expertise in all disciplines who would bring invaluable knowledge and know-how to the conception, development, and implementation of such a plan. In addition, many friends of Haiti and members of its Diaspora would surely readily help where needed.
This plan should be based on clearly stated principles, such as Amartya Sen’s principle of development as freedom, and Hernando de Soto’s principle of creating wealth for those living in poverty by recognizing their existing assets.
And the international community would come together, each adopting a part of this plan in order to collaborate on it with their Haitian counterparts and find the necessary funds.
We dream of it often….