Haiti’s Tainted Economic Plan Risks Huge Waste of Donor Funds
Human Rights Groups Charge Kofi Annan & Colin Powell Attempt to Legitimize Program “Designed by and for Foreigners” at July 19-20 Meeting at World Bank
Public Protest Outside World Bank (18th & Pennsylvania, N.W.) – 8 am, Tuesday, July 20
Washington, DC – July 19, 2004: As international donors convene a meeting to pledge their financial support for Haiti’s Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF), a broad range of civil society critics warns that the program’s failure to include Haitian priorities and perspectives puts it at risk of wasting nearly a billion dollars in donor funds.
“Just as the 1994 reconstruction program in Haiti fell far short of its goals, largely because of the failure to involve Haitians in the planning, so the donors’ meeting on Monday and Tuesday could end up sending $924 million into the pockets of foreigners and Haitian elite, with little reaching the people in need,” said Melinda Miles, Co-Director of the Quixote Center. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell are scheduled to attend the Tuesday sessions. Miles warned, “such high-level endorsement of the plan is likely to discourage people from looking at its provisions and provenance more seriously. It has no legitimacy among Haitians, and is, in large part, designed by and for the benefit of foreigners and an unconstitutional regime.”
The ICF follows the standard prescriptions of the World Bank and IMF for impoverished countries. It recommends more free trade zones (home to “sweatshop” factories and very low wages) and export agriculture. Njoki Njoroge Njehu of the 50 Years Is Enough Network said, “These policies have been imposed throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, and Africa; they have harmed rather than benefited the impoverished majorities. On the other hand, they have facilitated huge increases in profits for multinational corporations that can get labor and commodities at ever-lower prices.”
The ICF has been designed by economic advisers, most of them from outside Haiti, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank. Representatives of the U.S.-supported de facto regime in Haiti were scarce, and token civil society input came after the document was largely completed. Even the Council of Eminent Persons, the body established by the U.S. and other powers which appointed Latortue after the coup d’etat against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, reports that it was unaware of the process and never consulted.
Olivia Goumbri of the Ecumenical Program on Central America and the Caribbean (EPICA) characterizes the ICF as “one more step in the disenfranchisement of the Haitian people,” a process that has included “the continual brutalization of the impoverished majority, with violence and blatant human rights abuses overlooked by the international community. We are shocked by the silence and lack of response from the U.S. and UN towards continuing human rights abuses and we condemn violence that is focusing on supporters of the deposed Lavalas government. The de facto Latortue regime in Haiti does not have a mandate from the Haitian people and is not empowered to enter into long-term contracts or loan agreements.”
The dangers represented by the loans were underlined by Marie Clarke, National Coordinator of the Jubilee USA Network: “ Haiti’s loans from the 1994 reconstruction aid package will come due this year, doubling the country’s debt service payments. Before entering into new loan agreements, the best way that the donor community can start to assist in Haiti’s development is to release desperately needed resources by canceling Haiti’s odious debts. The pending loans are odious debt in the making. There are no guarantees that these funds will benefit the Haitian people. Creditors should heed the example of Iraq; they can not expect the Haitian people to repay these loans in the future.” Clarke made the connection between the call for debt cancellation for Iraq, another case of odious debt, and the reality: creditors are knowingly pledging funds to a regime that has no mandate from its people and is actively involved in political persecution and human rights abuses, with no stated safeguards to protect the funds from corruption or to ensure that they will be used to benefit the majority of the Haitian people.
A pillar of Haiti’s failed 1994 reconstruction plan, privatization of state-owned enterprises, is likewise central to the ICF. When Haiti fell behind on the privatization schedule, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund withheld funding for nearly five years. This embargo widened to include funding from the Inter-American Bank and the U.S. government, choking the country through denial of access to capital and credit. Now that Haiti’s constitutional government has been forced from power and replaced by a privatization-friendly U.S.-backed regime, the international community is rallying to pour hundreds of millions into Haiti.
“The issue of privatization is a serious and controversial one”, added Njehu of the 50 Years Is Enough Network. “It must be decided by a democratically elected government in concert with the people, and should expand, not reduce, access to basic rights (water, food, education, shelter, health services, etc.) to the broadest segment of the Haitian population.”
Most importantly, international donors are risking complete failure by putting money into the hands of an undemocratic, unconstitutional regime that has no legitimacy, and in a climate of impunity and rampant human rights abuses. “The violent disruption of Haiti’s democratic order has exacerbated the grinding poverty in which the majority of Haitians live,” explained Miles of the Quixote Center, “and true development can only take place in the context of stable democracy and respect for the Haitian Constitution.”
Organizations sponsoring the Tuesday morning action and endorsing the positions expressed in this press release:
Quixote Center [ Maryland]; 50 Years Is Enough Network [DC]; Jubilee USA Network [DC]; Ecumenical Program in Central America & the Caribbean (EPICA) DC]; Haiti Action Committee [ San Francisco]; Office of the Americas [ Los Angeles]; TransAfrica Forum [DC]; Global Justice [DC]; Marin Interfaith Task Force [ California]; Haiti for Change [DC]
Soren Ambrose New Voices on Globalization / 50 Years Is Enough Network
3628 12th St., N.E. Washington, DC 20017 USA