July 13, 2012
President Martelly unveiled the foundation stone for the Caracol industrial park, November 2011 (Haiti Liberte)
After reading Deborah Sontag’s massive New York Times article about the Clinton-brokered South Korean industrial park in northern Haiti, it took me some time to come up with the appropriate reaction. The article reads like a pump-‘em-up speech for opening night of the Left Forum. Nothing against the annual conclave of leftists; I’d be equally wary if the article tacked the other extreme towards CPAC’s party line.
The Times story is the standard Left pitch of global capitalists teaming up with self-serving governments to exploit the little people. It’s a perfect rendition, actually. Too perfect (as is this rebuttal). But it seems Sontag was more interested in maintaining the Left’s narrative than in fairly reporting on the Caracol project.
read more »
June 13, 2012
A Le Nouvelliste article about a Gros Morne mango plant, closed by order of the US, is being circulated online as an example of the US delivering, according to the mayor, yet another “slap to the Haitian people.” I tend to focus on foreign coverage of Haiti but I’m writing about this LN article (read the English version on Defend.ht) because I want to encourage readers to demand the quality information they deserve about a field as critical to Haiti’s development as economic news–and this article ain’t it.
As an outsider, I learned early on that a defining quality of The Haiti Conversation is the frequency and normalcy with which rumor and hearsay is deployed to support fossilized political points of view.
read more »
December 11, 2010
A year after the quake, do nonprofits still have cash for cash-for-work? (Howard LaFranchi/The Christian Science Monitor)
Over the last month all eyes have been on actual and potential post-election violence in Haiti but there’s more than violence and frustration going on there (see below). Business happens in Haiti, too, but it’s a topic that won’t typically be reported on in the media–to the detriment of Haitian diaspora who’re either looking for sustainable ways to help their country or who want to magnify the impact of foreign aid.
Fact: investment opportunities exist in Haiti. Business coverage can help to foster not only more of them but more open commercial transactions. Fact: if there’s one word that the Haitians I talked to this summer repeated most often, it’s “job.” Despite that, most of our media and community conversations in the US, even among the diaspora, center not on job creation but on charity–as if alms ever lifted any mass of people out of poverty.
read more »
June 10, 2010
I’ve just finished a story about New York area businesses that are trying to get a slice of the $10 billion reconstruction pie. I plan to continue reporting in the vein of profit and business, particularly those firms that are creating employment in Haiti. I figure there’re enough reporters covering aid as charity, how it works and then blaming the usual suspects when it doesn’t. That’s a valuable frame but there’re so many other ways to frame how development goes down in Haiti. I’m open to other ideas so, holler.
Unfortunately, my story’s behind a pay wall so I’ll reproduce a bit here:
[Jean] Petrus belongs to a small coterie of New York-area businesses, most owned by Haitian-Americans, pushed by a slow recovery at home and pulled by both patriotism and profit to help reconstruct Haiti.
[According to the Associated Press] more than 105,000 homes need to be rebuilt, along with 1,300 schools, 50 hospitals, the presidential palace, parliament and courts, not to mention debris removal and technology and infrastructure development.
These Haitian-American owners are new to the world of federal procurement, however. Since January 12th, other American firms with extensive international experience in disaster clean-up and construction—many with lessons learned from post-Hurricane Katrina reconstruction—have been setting up offices, camps and mess halls for an anticipated workforce in Port-au-Prince.
It remains to be seen whether and how effectively Haitian-American firms can compete for the more than $1 billion in aid pledged by the United States over the next decade.
June 9, 2010
The U.S. takes the lead behind Venezuela in aid pledged for Haiti's reconstruction
Should (competent) Haitian-American professionals and business owners get first dibs at federal contracts to help rebuild Haiti? Should they be allowed to skip the line ahead of other American businesses–including minority and women suppliers? Tough questions. Who in the Haitian diaspora is asking them? Do they even feel as though they can demand preferential treatment from the U.S. government to rebuild their native country?
I’ve been reporting a story about Haitian-American business owners who want to get in on the $9.9 billion in aid for Haiti’s reconstruction. Haiti needs everything after all: roads, homes, schools, IT, etc. Most of the people I spoke to were just now learning how to procure federal contracts with USAID not to mention the 20-something other federal agencies that outsource international development to US firms. In short, they don’t really have a clue and are trying to get one.
All of them feel–very strongly–that the diaspora should help to rebuild Haiti. And when asked, say, yes, of course, (competent) Haitian-American businesses and professionals should be first in line to receive federal contracts. But what are they doing about it? Nada. Interestingly, they’re not taking this notion of having a ‘natural right’ to rebuild Haiti to its logical political conclusion — which is to lobby federal agencies for first dibs at those reconstruction contracts.
I don’t know the right answer to the above questions. I am interested in however, in considering a future where the US outsources international development primarily to hyphenated-Americans originally from the target country. Certainly more aid money would circulate in the target country’s economy instead of accruing in a foreigner’s foreign bank account. For example, Haitian-Americans are more likely than foreigners to lend, spend or share their earnings with Haitians.
So, would development happen faster? In a fairer way? And isn’t that possibility worth the political effort to find out?