the hubbub for help Haiti has really died down, even though aftershocks continue to ravage the island nation. http://www.ameliasmagazine.com/earth/haiti-slips-from-headlines-but-its-real-history-remains-unreported/2010/01/28/ alerted me to a problem with just donating money to Haiti itself…..Haiti became its own nation when the slaves of Haiti revolted and threw the foreigners out of the sugar fields, out of their country. Please excuse the quote heaviness of the post, and that is NOT fat related, but i think its important. Emphasis, as usual, is mine.
The French government, defeated and humiliated by the loss of its most prized colony, ordered Haiti to pay the ex-colonisers compensation for the property they had lost, and the estimated economic loss to the French government. This totalled $150 million: $150 million that ex-slaves had to pay back to their ex-masters. France and other Western powers, fearing that their other colonies would also start revolting, threatened Haiti with an economic embargo if they refused to pay the compensation, so Haitians had no choice. It was a sum that left the island crippled with debt to French, US and German banks, and one that it was only able to finish repaying about $90 million of in 1947. So until so recently, Haitians were still repaying this sum to the wealthy French government, preventing them from investing it in their own economic development.
Haiti also still owes the International Monetary Fund $165 million. IMF and World Bank loans came with strict conditions called Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs). SAPs aim to reorganise a country’s government and economy so it can repay debt as rapidly as possible. Requirements include cuts in public spending, making more money available for debt repayment but meaning health care and education become inaccessible for the majority of the population. Cheap, intensive, trade-union-free labour needs to be made readily available for easy foreign investment. The economy needs to become export-led. Imported products become cheaper than domestic goods. Farmers and manufacturers within the country can no longer compete and lose their livelihoods meaning domestic agriculture industry and trade are stifled. The best land is used for intensive, large-scale, export-bound production, leading to soil erosion and deforestation. (which can make the after effects of earthquakes much worse, -mngmnt) Food production was so badly managed as a result of the structural adjustment free-market policies, that Haiti, once a huge exporter of rice, became a net importer of it. Growing starvation in the once self-sufficient rural regions meant that people had to migrate en masse to cities, forming slums on its outskirts. This is also why the devastation in Port au Prince was particularly severe.
Haiti continues to owe about $891million to international banks and governments and NGOs worldwide are calling for people to sign petitions for it to be dropped. So next time you see appeals for aid, remember how much of it Haiti will have to send back in debt repayment.
“It is one of the poorest countries in the world and yet the International Monetary Fund (IMF) response to the earthquake was to offer a $100 million loan. This loan would increase Haiti’s debt burden at this time of crisis. If Haiti’s debts aren’t cancelled, the country will be sending tens of millions to the IMF and other international bodies even as it struggles to rescue and rebuild” say Oxfam.
There are various petitions you can sign to pressure the IMF to drop Haiti’s debt, whether they help or not is another question. Haiti should, in fact be repaid every last penny of what it paid in compensation to ex-colonisers. But what certainly is needed is a rapid growth of consciousness about how sustainable development and democracy continue to be stifled by the economic policies of our governments and financial institutions.
So please, by all means, help the Haitians. Send food, supplies, donate to red cross so they can send medical help. DONT send money directly to haiti itself. It will just pay the world bank back for a debt the small nation can’t afford. And sign a petition. Lets pave the road for Haiti to actually rebuild, instead of forcing them to spend any money the government DOES receive to pay down the debt. HOw can the rebuild if ” Requirements include cuts in public spending, making more money available for debt repayment but meaning health care and education become inaccessible for the majority of the population”?