Bahamas Blog International
Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC): Regional productivity is about half its potential, says economist
Regional productivity is about half its potential, says economist
By Alicia Roache Sunday Finance reporter firstname.lastname@example.org:
Economist Dr Peter John Gordon says low productivity within countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is caused primarily by a misallocation of resources, market failures and poor economic policies rather than worker inefficiencies.
Gordon, a research fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, made the remarks last week during a presentation at the Jamaica Employers' Federation head offices on Ruthven Road.
In making reference to a recent Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) study titled 'The Age of Productivity: Transforming Economies from the Bottom Up', Gordon said that it is the economic policies that "distort incentives for innovation, prevent efficient companies from expanding and promote the survival and growth of inefficient firms".
"Attaining aggregate efficiency gains is a complex process which requires the alignment of fair competition and the opportunity for firms with good ideas to thrive," Gordon said.
He noted that among the most problematic causes of the low productivity of firms in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is the fact that they have little incentive to grow. Gordon noted that larger firms attract higher taxes and are often overlooked by policies that promote nascent industries or firms over existing, productive enterprises. He said smaller firms tend to be less productive than larger ones and therefore by reducing the share of small firms to medium-sized or larger ones, LAC countries can increase its productivity levels.
"There is a strong relationship between productivity and size," said Gordon. "Larger firms tend to be more productive...Smaller firms on average tend to be less productive than larger ones."
"Reducing the share of small manufacturing firms and increasing the share of medium sized manufacturing firms so as to match the distribution in the USA, leaving productivity levels of firms unchanged would almost double manufacturing productivity. This boost would be sufficient to eliminate the manufacturing productivity gap with the USA," Gordon said.
The average per capita income in LAC was one-sixth that of the USA in 2006. The region's productivity gap with the US is 37 per cent of the income gap, accumulated factors account for the remaining 63 per cent. The LAC region has experienced growth rates below that of the rest of the world.
Gordon argued that policies can distort which firms operate in the market, and either promote the survival of poorly performing firms or the exit of more efficient ones. Among the causes of this distortion, said Gordon, is the intervention in the market by governments, along with credit and tax policies that help low productivity firms gain market share or hinder productive firms from gaining markets.
"These policies usually cover the areas of trade, credit, taxes, social protection, aid to small firms, innovation and industrial promotion," said Gordon.
He argued that market forces should be left to the invisible hand of the market, not governments or other policymakers who by trying to resolve co-ordination problems and provide inputs for sectors "handpicked for their potential comparative advantage", inadvertently "pick losers" as well.
"I have great difficulty in endorsing much of this sort of policy," Gordon said of picking winners. "Bureaucrats do not have any better information than anyone else about future demand conditions. Guessing wrong on future demand will doom an industrial policy even if the supply side responds in the intended way," he said.
The tax regimes within the region are also to blame for the low productivity and GDP growth according to Gordon. It takes an average of 320 hours per year for LAC firms to file taxes, while firms in high income countries take 177 hours on average per year. Gordon argued that in addition to the use of productive time to file taxes, the tax system itself exacerbates the productivity problem with expansion of lower productive firms taking place at the expense of higher productive firms because of unequal tax rates.
"Tax systems which exempt firms below a certain size from paying taxes encourage firms to stay small and less productive," said Gordon. "The main problems with these regimes is that they stunt the growth of small firms. These regimes create gaps or so called non-linearity- which mean that firms wanting to grow do not have the correct incentives to do so," Gordon said.
He noted firms which grow in size may see a significant drop in profits because of the discontinuity in marginal tax rates within LAC countries. Examples from Peru and Argentina indicate that firms who 'graduate' from low to high tax regimes have a 53 to 62 per cent drop in profits respectively.
Gordon said that industries should not be protected from international competition, as is the case with many countries in LAC, including Jamaica. Low exposure to international trade, whether by tariffs, non-tariffs or other barriers protect low productivity firms from competition, thereby allowing the less productive firms to survive, Gordon argued. He said opening up the markets to international competition will increase the rate at which low productivity firms exit the market, thereby providing the channel for productivity to increase.
Gordon said Jamaica should aim to move its productivity forward by examining the effects of policies on long-term productivity and placing the national interest at the forefront of policy debate rather than that of sectoral or interest groups.
"Anticompetitive practices particularly from the informal sector rank as the third most important constraint to formal firms' growth...after corruption and macro instability and ahead of other pressing issues such as inefficient regulations, high tax rates, the economic cost of crime, high cost of electricity or inefficient tax administration," Gordon said.
"Latin America and the Caribbean productivity is about half its potential," said Gordon. "Improving productivity must be central in any economic programme."
June 27, 2010
International law and disasters
BY STEPHEN VASCIANNIE:
THE United Nations International Law Commission is currently formulating draft rules of law that may apply in the context of disasters. One issue that has arisen concerns whether the State that has suffered a disaster (eg an earthquake, hurricane or tsunami) should be compelled to accept international assistance. Should International Law require the victim State to decline aid? Or, in other words, should aid be contingent upon the consent of the victim State?
In the First Part of the 62nd Session of the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC), that body considered a proposal on the question. The proposal, made by the special rapporteur on the subject of Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters, Mr Eduardo Valencia-Ospina (Colombia), was set out as draft Article 8 of his Third Report on the subject (UN Doc A/CN 4/629). The proposed article 8 states:
"1. The affected State has the primary responsibility for the protection of persons and provision of humanitarian assistance on its territory. The State retains the right, under its national law, to direct, control, co-ordinate and supervise such assistance within its territory.
2. External assistance may be provided only with the consent of the affected State."
The following is an edited version of the statement by Stephen Vasciannie, Jamaican member of the Commission, on the question of intervention to provide assistance in the context of disaster relief.
"The proposed draft article 8 in the special rapporteur's report concerns what is denoted as the "primary responsibility of the affected State" in times of disaster. Paragraph 1 of draft article 8 asserts the primary responsibility of the affected States to protect persons and to provide humanitarian assistance; it also indicates that the affected State retains the right, under its national law, to direct, control, co-ordinate and supervise humanitarian assistance in its territory. Paragraph 2 asserts that external assistance may be provided only with the consent of the affected State.
I support these two paragraphs, generally speaking.
I would place them as two separate provisions because they deal with, or apply to, two related, but different, sets of issues.
I would remove the word "primary" from the first paragraph. This word almost automatically implies that there are secondary duties, and will prompt those who have read the Expenses Case (ICJ Reports 1962, p 151) to go searching for important secondary responsibility. If there is secondary responsibility this may be carefully set out somewhere else in the draft articles: so that no one can reasonably assume that the primary/secondary distinction sets the stage for the possibility of intervention against the affected State's will in cases of disaster.
Primary in the present draft article 8(1) is unnecessarily question-begging. As an inherent part of its sovereignty, and in keeping with current rules of international law, the affected State is responsible for the protection of persons and the provision of humanitarian assistance on its territory. There is no need to cloud this straightforward statement of the law with the primary and secondary dichotomy.
Significance of Consent
Paragraph 2 is, in my view, the most important provision in the current report. Neither foreign States nor foreign non-governmental organisations may enter an affected State to provide assistance without the consent of the affected State. This follows from elementary considerations of sovereignty. To enter a foreign State to provide assistance to an affected State against the will of the affected State would be a form of intervention contrary to the United Nations Charter, and several resolutions that have now passed into the corpus of the general law. Paragraph 2 needs to ensure that foreign States are not given carte blanche, or indeed any form of free permit, to enter the affected State without consent.
So, I would encourage the special rapporteur to tighten his formulation in Article 8 to make it clear that the draft articles do not allow a right of intervention in cases of disaster.
Sovereignty among donors
Generally, international law does not encompass a duty on States to give aid to poor countries. States are free to decide when to give and when not to give assistance. This follows from elementary considerations of sovereignty. Whenever poor countries have sought to assist the development of norms requiring the grant of aid, this has not been accepted. Some countries, not facing natural disasters, have individuals who suffer profoundly; but there is no duty to give aid. Sovereignty rules on the donor front.
Then a disaster comes along. It may be a disaster like the one which struck Haiti, 90 miles from my home country. People in my country felt the related shocks, and have reflected on the proximity and on obvious questions of risk, misfortune and good fortune. In the face of the disaster, as in the case of Haiti, there is still no duty on the part of the well-off countries to give aid: sovereignty rules on the donor front.
Nor can the disaster-stricken country, as a matter of existing law, require that aid be provided in keeping with principles of proportionality, humanity, neutrality, or because it is fair and equitable to do so. There is no right to obtain aid in the case of a disaster because sovereignty rules on the donor front.
Countries may give aid, and this is received with gratitude in a disaster situation. But each donor country decides how it will grant largesse and take other policy decisions in respect of disasters -- even though there are suffering people in the disaster, other countries are not required by law to provide assistance. Charity, ex hypothesi, implies that the law cannot say you must give.
Obliged to Receive Aid?
But, it has recently been argued with considerable skill that countries which have faced the disaster must be obliged in some circumstances to take aid. As part of this argument, we are encouraged, I think, to look past the "old-fashioned" concept of sovereignty, and abandon the hardline position taken by one or two countries in reality, in making our assessment of whether there is a duty to accept aid. Sovereignty should not prevail on the receiving end of the disaster.
Against this background, what are bases by which States should accept that there is a duty to accept aid in times of disaster, but no duty to provide it?
One answer, immediate to our purposes, is that we are working on a project that would be largely pointless if we insist that States have the sovereign right to refuse aid in times of disaster. States may, presumably, refuse aid when there is no disaster; but if the disaster comes, because we are working on this project, States should be required to accept intervention for aid purposes. It is suggested that if we, as a Commission, do not accept intervention for aid purposes in some cases we would simply be reaffirming Article 2(7) of the UN Charter.
Implicit in this argument is also the idea that although the United Nations very often undertakes affirmations, it would be superfluous for us to affirm Article 2(7) and the important principles of non-intervention arising from the United Nations Charter. I regret that I do not accept this line of reasoning. The International Law Commission is working on a project concerning assistance in cases of disaster with several dimensions: the project should not be diminished by the suggestion that if sovereignty is upheld, the project is largely meaningless.
Another point in favour of some kind of humanitarian interventionism in cases of disaster is based on the notion that the guiding star of this project is protection -- protection of individuals in time of disaster. This is the maxima lex, as reflected in draft Articles 1 and 2 already adopted. The truth, though, is that when the maxima lex encounters the jus cogens rule of non-intervention, the latter will prevail in the current law. Moreover, even if the guiding star of the Commission's work is the protection of the individual, this does not, ipso facto, mean that foreign States must, or should, have the right to intervene to protect people in times of disaster, if this is contrary to the will of the affected State. I would also seriously doubt that States in the Sixth Committee or elsewhere realised that they were accepting the right to have other States come on to their territory for disaster relief purposes just because they remained silent on the terms of Articles 1 and 2.
To be clear, therefore, I do not believe that the Commission should reformulate the rule in draft Article 8 in a manner which would suggest that the affected State can be penalised, as a matter of law, for "unreasonably withholding consent" for entry on its territory to give aid. For this is contrary to existing law. Neither should Article 8 be amended to suggest that the international community as a whole has a right to intervene in the affected State when that State lacks the will to give consent. For this, too, is contrary to existing law, and especially Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.
Reasons to Require Consent
Finally, why is it a bad idea to allow intervention in times of disaster, when thousands may be suffering? Reasons in addition to that of sovereignty:
(1) There is no significant State practice or opinio juris in favour of this approach. True, a few governments -- in the high tide of liberal interventionism -- suggested that the matter be considered, but this was not the majority sentiment even during the high tide. This point is reinforced by the evidence gathered in the Memorandum of the United Nations Secretariat on the subject of disaster relief.
(2) UN General Assembly Resolution 46/182 on Strengthening of the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Emergency Assistance of the United Nations expressly requires that consent be given by the affected State for aid to be brought to its territory.
(3) Most States accept that the responsibility to protect, to the extent that it justifies intervention, does not extend to the situation of intervention in the face of disaster, as evidenced by the position taken, for example, by China, India and Japan in the Sixth Committee of the United Nations two years ago.
Possibility of Abuse
(4) There is the distinct possibility that this well-meaning idea of intervention could be abused, and could allow stronger States to intervene in disaster areas for their own purposes. In some cases, powerful countries wish to intervene in weak countries for justifiable reasons. But the international system has rules for this, and the historical experience of weaker countries suggests that States should be wary of mixed motives.
(5) Determining the threshold point for intervention would be problematic; and the threshold point for poor countries would be different than for rich countries because the decision on intervention would be based in part on perceptions of a State's capacity to solve its challenges. Double standards would probably apply.
(6) The affected State is in the best position to judge whether or not humanitarian assistance is needed.
(7) The affected State should not be rushed into a decision to accept assistance under threat of sanctions, as it will be forced to make major decisions about protecting its territory at the very time when it is contending with disaster-induced destruction: this is inconsistent with the notion of help.
(8) The likelihood that an affected State would wilfully reject genuine assistance offered in a time of disaster is low. Mention has been made of Myanmar as a model to be avoided in some senses. At the time of the Myanmar tragedy in May 2008, Condoleeza Rice affirmed that this was not the normal situation: "It's a quite unusual situation actually that you have a country in this desperate straits ... and you get a kind of stone cold face about people who just want help." (BBC, May 23, 2008)s
So, in the end, draft article 8 must not allow intervention without consent. In a disaster situation, help should reach victims in short order. Donor countries can decide on the incentives they wish to give in a situation of recalcitrance, and in all cases there should be diplomatic efforts to help affected States to distinguish the wood from the trees. But the special rapporteur's Article 8(2) shows due respect for the complex realities of State sovereignty and interventionism: we should support it with this in mind."
-- Stephen Vasciannie is principal of the Norman Manley Law School and rapporteur for the 62nd Session of the United Nations International Law Commission. The views expressed herein are personal.
June 27, 2010
The Buffoonization of Hugo Chavez
Related to country: Venezuela
By Sean Fenley:
“We were always cautious about the triumph of President Obama. Early on, we began to take note of the truth, that the empire is here, alive and more threatening than ever.”
- Hugo Chavez Frias
It is said when you can’t beat ‘em, that you might as well make common cause with them, but in the case of President Hugo Chavez and the government of Venezuela this doesn’t seem to be the logical choice of the U.S. State Department and the corporate ‘mainstream’ media at all. Since the Obama State Department and its auxiliaries are incapable of debunking the unequivocal success of the Bolivarian revolution, and since the CIA’s forays into the Bolivarian Republic have been far from a success, the corporate MSM seems to be employing the strategy that if you can’t beat ‘em, then you might as well throw a whole bunch of mud in their eye.
Craven and seemingly incapable of a fair fight, the corporate ‘mainstream’ media egregiously goes for the low blow, each and every time. The propaganda and half-truth, levied against the sitting Venezuelan President, at times veers into the realm of classifying Chavez as a dictatorial strongman — which has never stopped the U.S. government before — but I think the lion’s share of the effort to impugn and delegitimize Chavez is to make him out to be playing with something far short of a full deck.
Perhaps most recognizably, we have seen the baseness of the coverage of President Chavez in colorful remarks that he has made about George W. Bush being the devil, or in his referring to Sarah Palin as a confused beauty pageant contestant. These comments have been made out to be the zenith of President Chavez’s intellectual powers. Although the Venezuela leader, may at times make these sort of flip, off the cuff remarks and comments, his raising of serious and incisive points about the United States empire and belligerent ‘hegemonic’ power generally go unnoticed by a media, which are seemingly looking to do nothing other than lampoon and skewer the Bolivarian President.
Presumably, anyone who opposes — and has a coherent critique — of U.S. neocolonialism and imperialism is some kind of a buffoon or imbecile. History, of course, ended long ago, and anyone looking to swim against the tide of the straitjacket that the wealthiest countries want to affix upon the rest of humanity, apparently must be hopelessly misinformed and/or wildly out of touch. Never do the so-called mainstream media reliable sources focus on figures like a drop in poverty from 71% in 1996 to 23% in 2010, or that Venezuela is meeting its UN Millennium Development targets. Instead, slander, invective, and a generalized muddying of the waters are the tools of the ‘diligent reporting’ of the ‘venerable’ corporatist press.
Time Magazine, for example, in an article in 2007, referred to Chavez as a budding movie mogul, for funding a project on Toussaint L’Ouverture with the veteran American actor and activist Danny Glover. Time opined, in that piece of incomparable ‘journalism’, that this would probably be just the beginning, of Chavez’s forays into socialist propaganda films. One would think that the apropos question for Time’s reportage, would be why would such a seasoned and respected actor of Hollywood need to go outside of the U.S. to fund this kind of project — of such an important figure of Haitian history and even the history of the world? And one can only imagine the coverage of L’Ouverture, by the Western media of his day. He was probably the Hugo Chavez of his era, and almost undoubtedly accused of being something like an inciter of riots, for realizing that people born in chains might want some modicum of freedom.
The Los Angeles Times devoted critical resources recently, to informing their audience that Hugo Chavez had opened a Twitter account. The Times — in a testament to their abilities of ‘objective’ news-making — said they were glued to Chavez’s tweets, because of the man’s “sometimes unpredictable actions.” Moreover, they erroneously reported that Chavez had a tight grip on the media in his country, when the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Venezuelan media is rabidly anti-Chavez, and firmly in the hands of the Venezuelan elite.
Progressive commentator Mark Weisbrot, has even likened the Venezuelan private media’s coverage of Chavez, to Fox News’ coverage of Barack Obama in the United States. Though Weisbrot went even further, saying that the Venezuelan private media is more politicized, more prone to hyperbole, and less rooted in facts — as compared to Rupert Murdoch’s virulent propaganda operation in the U. S. In concluding the LA Times article, unequivocally a Pulitzer level, erudite piece, the Times talked to U.S. State Department spokesmen Philip Crowley. Crowley soberly told the Times reporter that he simply couldn’t resist being a Twitter follower of President Hugo Chavez’s numerous tweets.
The corporate media is, of course, replete with this kind of shoddy, trivialized, and half-baked ‘journalism’. And apparently one needs to be a highly celebrated and Academy Award winning film maker to get any kind of substantive, reasonably fair coverage of Venezuela in the U.S. corporatist fourth estate. A recent piece on Oliver Stone’s newest documentary in the tabloid the New York Daily News, actually raised some sober-minded points about Venezuela — things that are regularly redacted from most of the mainstream accounts. Things like, that the ‘bad guys’ in this narrative are really the U.S., the International Monetary Fund, and colonial powers such as Britain and Spain. And also that there is widespread popular support for Hugo Chavez in his home country; he’s not just some clownish Svengali who has a nation by the horns.
The article also quotes Stone’s accurate contention, that there’s been virtually no change whatsoever emanating from the administration of Barack Obama. Reading this is sort of information in the American mainstream media, is almost not to be believed, because it is just the kind of thing that is perennially missing from the one side of the issue that the ‘mainstream’ chooses to support. And as George Orwell famously noted in his seminal work of fiction 1984, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” It’s no wonder Venezuela, almost undoubtedly, could surely be just another potential territory ripe for invasion, and the spreading of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ and ‘nation-building’ one day; on the not all too distant horizon. Especially, when considering a media that succeeds in redefining up as down and rewriting history according to the worldview that it is — self-referentially — operating from.
One would think, if s/he puts any stock in the MSM’s egregious, slanderous actions, that a dictatorial, oafish, president controls the state of Venezuela. The truth of the matter, is, undeniably, that making progress on the fronts where President Hugo Chavez has been successful would be impossible if Venezuela were being shepherded by just another one of the stewards of U.S. imperial mandates. And it would, irrefutably, be nothing more than a vassal, wholly-owned subsidiary of the United States.
Sean Fenley is an independent progressive, who would like to see some sanity brought to the creation and implementation, of current and future, U.S. military, economic, foreign and domestic policies.
June 25th 2010
Extradition double standards
Cases involving Jamaican 'Dudus' Coke, Venezuela's Luis Posada and the USA
BY RICKEY SINGH:
WHILE Jamaica's security forces intensify their hunt for most wanted reputed dealer in illicit drugs and guns, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, for extradition to the USA, Venezuela has chosen to increase its pressure for Washington to extradite to Caracas a most wanted terrorist.
He is the Cuban-born naturalised Venezuelan citizen, Luis Posada Carilles, in connection with his involvement in the 1976 bombing tragedy of a Cubana aircraft off Barbados in which 73 people on board perished.
Killings, mayhem and spreading fear have been a virtual way of life in so-called garrison communities of Jamaica, such as Coke's Tivoli Gardens base.
The controversy over Kingston's delay in responding to Washington's extradition request for Coke has led to tensions in their relations.
But the legal arrangements for Coke's extradition are now proceeding in the Jamaican court system, even as the don's 'kingdom' in Tivoli is crumbling under the heavy guns of the security forces.
In contrast, however, to the official foot-dragging over some nine months by Prime Minister Bruce Golding's Government to facilitate, under a bilateral treaty, Coke's extradition to the USA, 'Uncle Sam' has been contemptuously and systematically ignoring, under successive Washington administrations, extradition demands from Venezuela.
The refusal to grant Venezuela's extradition requests had started with the presidency of then senior George Bush, and prior to the emergence of a Government in Caracas under President Hugo Chavez.
Having previously been ignored, the Chavez Government moved to involve Parliament. And its National Assembly last Tuesday approved a resolution demanding the extradition of Posada Carilles. He, along with another anti-Cuba exile then in Venezuela, Orlando Bosch (Cuban-American), were wanted for the 1976 terrorist bombing of the Cubana aircraft.
In calling on President Barack Obama's administration for the extradition of Posada, the Venezuelan Parliament noted that the demand had been reinforced by additional testimonies received from relatives of the victims of the Cubana bombing tragedy.
Posada and Bosch have long been identified as the chief plotters of the bombing of the Cubana aircraft on October 6, 1976 when all 73 people on board -- 57 Cubans; 11 Guyanese and 5 North Koreans -- died.
Instead of facilitating their extradition as fugitive terrorists from justice, then President Bush, in response to urgings from the anti-Fidel Castro lobby in Miami and Washington as well as from his son Jebb Bush, then governor of Florida, granted a Presidential Pardon to Bosch.
Even before a US immigration judge was to rule against Posada's extradition to Venezuela on the contention that he would be subjected to "torture while in custody", Caricom foreign ministers had, at a meeting, called for him to face a court trial for his involvement in the Cubana bombing tragedy.
If is felt that if the rule of law is to prevail and justice is to be served in what Caricom has officially recognised as "the worst human tragedy" to have occurred by a terrorist act in Caribbean airspace, then NO double standards on implementation of bilateral extradition treaties should be permitted on the part of Jamaica and the USA in the case of Christopher Coke; or that involving Venezuela and America for the extradition of Posada (Bosch having already secured a Presidential Pardon).
This is certainly a matter of regional importance and urgency that should be dispassionately discussed and a relevant decision taken at the forthcoming 31st regular annual Caricom Heads of Government Conference scheduled for November 3-7 in Montego Bay.
While the administrations of the Bushes (father and son) had made what critics view as a mockery of the existing extradition treaty between the USA and Canada, the reality is that the Obama administration CANNOT seriously claim unawareness of its own obligation in relation to Caricom's earlier call for Posada to be brought to justice for the enormous human tragedy in which he and US collaboration have been so well exposed.
Against the backdrop of issues discussed at the recent Washington Dialogue on Security Co-operation between the USA and Caricom, and embraced at last week's meeting in Barbados of the Community's foreign ministers and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, there is another related issue:
It is the proposed initiative of US Attorney General Eric Holder for Caricom governments to be willing to accept "resident US security advisors". This is a matter that involves concerns over "sovereignty" and one that ALL nations like to emphasise whenever necessary or expedient.
If this issue surfaces during the summit's discussion on "crime and security", as is likely, it is reasonable to assume that Caricom leaders may also consider it relevant to question the modalities of compilation of annual US State Department reports on such sensitive matters of mutual interest like drugs and human trafficking.
The US authors never fail to adopt the postures of lecturing and reprimanding this region over such reports.
Perhaps Caricom should consider requesting the Obama administration to accept "resident" Caribbean officials to benefit from how such reports are prepared for official circulation and the approaches by US authorities in curbing trafficking in drugs and humans at their domestic level.
June 20, 2010
The Harriet Tubman Haiti connection
Related to country: Haiti
By Jean H Charles:
It is now about one-hundred sixty days since a powerful earthquake shook the southern part of Haiti, causing some 500,000 deaths, with 300,000 burials; still some 200,000 are under the debris. Using the lowest standard of evaluation, the refugees -- some 1.5 million people living under tents -- are facing the grim reality of a severe at-risk situation, because an impending, strong hurricane season is on the way with a recurrent wave of 23 hurricanes on the horizon, according to forecasters.
By all accounts, the Haitian government has failed to provide a proper mechanism to facilitate the coordination of the outpouring of help coming from all over the world, to reach those most in need. The competition between service agencies for getting attention and for name branding to get more funding did not stimulate a division of labor that would make the crisis incrementally a nightmare of the past. It is for this reason that I have formulated the project Global Citizen Movement, nicknamed the Harriet Tubman Haiti connection to help the people of Haiti recovers from the ravages of the earthquake.
Haiti, even before the earthquake, was a broken country, with little infrastructure and laden with corrupt institutions, endowed with a resilient but an illiterate populace of some 6 million out of a population of 9 million people. It has lived under 150 years of mulatto governance that has cared little for the populace, and for the last 50 years its black governance has evolved around the mantra of populism to hide an arrogance and ineptness that amplified the magnitude of the disaster that could have resulted in a lower scope of injury with a better prepared nation.
The country is divided in 10 states, with no real autonomy and decentralization prerogatives, in spite of the letter of the constitution that calls for the auto-determination of each locality. The geographical and political structure includes 565 rural hamlets, 145 small towns, 10 major cities and the capital Port au Prince. It has also two islands, with one of them -- La Gonave -- larger than St Lucia or Dominica. The other island -- La Tortue -- was the playground of the buccaneers of the pirate era of the 16th century.
Each rural hamlet has a population of around 5,000 people and the small towns have a population of 30,000 to 50,000 people each, which make them as potentially vibrant entities as any of the small islands of the Caribbean.
My visit to Moravia and to Auburn in upstate New York this week, in the southern part of Syracuse, the memorial home of Harriet Tubman, is inscribed in the spirit of rebirth and renewal for Haiti. This courageous woman defied death, persecution and prosecution to ferry thousands of black slaves to Canada and upstate New York to escape slavery in the South of the United States.
It is fitting that a group of citizens, including children ambassadors from Morovia and Auburn have extended to me the hospitality to respond positively to the call for citizen-to-citizen exchange. I am pleased and honored that the grand niece of Harriet Tubman has signed on to the project as a volunteer and has accepted that we baptized the initiative the Harriet Tubman project of linking a village in Haiti with a village abroad, starting with the town of Auburn and surrounding communities. We start in Haiti with the village of St Suzanne, a mountainous rural hamlet in the northern part of Haiti.
I have already mobilized the citizens of St Suzanne, those in the Diaspora, as well as those in the homeland. They are excited about the cumulative effect of the catalyst for change that will happen when the transfer of technology will pump knowhow and expertise in education, agriculture, communication and business enterprise. On August 11, the village will celebrate its patron saint, Suzanne. On that auspicious occasion a group of American citizens from Moravia, Auburn and surrounding communities will be paying a visit to the citizens of St Suzanne to discuss the needs of the area and its strengths and resources.
Already, members of the Diaspora (Haitians living abroad) with homes in the village are sprucing their villas to receive the guests and friends from Cayuga County. The exchange will be a giving - giving by the citizens of both sides. From Haiti, the visitors will receive a full cultural experience, and a provision of empathy and business perspective that will enrich both nations.
Two centuries ago, under the second president of the United States, John Adams, the dream of young American entrepreneurs from Rhode Island to Maryland was to become wealthy and bronzed like a Creole. Huge fortunes were made in Haiti -- formerly St Domingue -- in buying and selling molasses for the production of sugar and the exploitation of coffee.
It is this colonial spirit of cooperation that I have revived to call on the Moravia and the Auburn Rotary Club, area churches and others to assist as pioneers of a people-people movement. Where the government and the institutions have failed in Haiti, the people-to-people movement will step in and succeed.
Upper New York State has vast fields of corn and other produce, orchards of apples and vineyard, the agricultural expertise of excellent institutions of higher learning such as Cornell and Syracuse Universities. I believe this region constitutes an excellent incubator for the transfer of technology in farming, husbandry, food conservation and processing for Haiti.
I plan to seek out and visit with many other small towns and villages amongst the friends of Haiti, the world over, to urge similar initiatives of technical assistance and development of friendships. There are some 700 small villages that can receive attention and support, I am certain Haiti can reborn from its ashes with an initiative that unleash the energy and the creativity of so many people who root for Haiti and for its people. I am ready and willing to visit with any group of citizens interested in initiating a linkage with one of the 700 small towns or villages of Haiti.
On the political front, I am seeking to obtain from the people of Haiti a mandate to become their president, so once and for all the culture of hospitality will be extended to every Haitian. I was fortunate enough to receive -- even before migrating to the United States some forty years ago -- a solid education in law and diplomacy. In the United States, I pursued my education and received a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and a law degree from Tulane. I have spent a life time defending immigrants in New York and in the education field I have promoted leadership and scholarship at the City College of the City University of New York
Upon retirement, I have found it fit and proper to go back to Haiti and help the people to enjoy the fruits and the bliss of democracy and good governance. My goals are simple:
1. A nation rebuilt without the stigma of discrimination and disfranchisement of the rural population.
2. A country with proper infrastructure, sound institutions free of corruption and with proper coordination and utilization of international aid, while unleashing the creativity of the majority of the Haitian people with support of education, technical skills and incubation to create business enterprises.
Details of my platform can be found by visiting: www.haitinetnews.com in its commentaries. I would be pleased to have the benefit of your comments and suggestions. I welcome, any help -- financial, strategic, technical or service-related -- that anyone can provide.
I dream of a Haiti proud and prosperous with a regained tradition of service and leadership throughout the Caribbean -- and I need your help! Together, we can combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace and equity, and bring hope and opportunity to all Haitians. Will you stand united with me on these aspirations?
June 19, 2010
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