It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light

Mwen se echantiyon yon ras kap boujonnen men ki poko donnen

Si vous voulez vous faire des ennemis essayer de changer les choses

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Haiti Doesn't Need These Jobs: Stanley Lucas' response to Robert Maguire

As a champion of Haiti -- and a Haitian -- I find Robert Maguire's letter to the Washington Post somewhat of a waste of space and bordering on offensive. First, it seems to imply that Haiti should not progress beyond an agrarian society. Factory jobs are not the answer, but they are an important part of the answer and a step up the development ladder from agriculture. To argue against factory jobs seems to be arguing for keeping Haiti primitive. The complex problems that face Haiti require a multifaceted solution. Surely the author understands that -- so what's the point of this letter? --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Second -- and more troubling -- the author points out that President Rene Preval responded to the massive April riots against food prices by announcing agricultural investment as the key priority. The President's announcement is cited to support his argument against focusing on factory job creation. If this supports the argument, it is some rather flimsy evidence. The rising food prices are mainly attributed to monopolies in the food import business and price gouging. Many of Preval's close associates maintain food monopolies. Perhaps Preval should have focused more on cleaning up the exploitation of the food import system. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere -- a fact that is noted in every Haiti-related news item. It was just devastated by four hurricanes. But Bob Maguire, considered one of the top Haiti scholars, chooses to write about something that is largely irrelevant. It's a fringe issue. So little column space goes to covering Haiti – why does he waste it on this baseless and rather insignificant observation?--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For Haiti, Assembly Jobs Aren't the Whole Answer by Robert Maguire -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Friday, September 12, 2008; A14
Former senator
Mike DeWine was correct in arguing that trade can help Haiti to its feet ["What Haiti Needs," op-ed, Sept. 9], but caution must be exercised in viewing low-paying assembly plant jobs in urban settings as the key to resolving Haiti's problems.
While investment in the assembly sector in the 1980s did create jobs, it also fueled significant off-the-land migration to Haiti's burgeoning slums, especially because corresponding investment in rural Haiti, where two-thirds of Haitians barely survive as small farmers, was lacking. Few of those hopeful migrants, crammed into slums built mostly on river deltas or low-lying alluvial plains, found factory jobs. At the same time, Haiti became less able to feed itself as cheap imported food -- principally rice that is no longer cheap -- created disincentives to farm. In desperation, many rural Haitians increasingly turned to charcoal production as a means of survival, progressively denuding hillsides that now channel flood waters to swollen rivers that inundate those river deltas and alluvial plains where the poor live.
In the aftermath of massive protests in April against the high cost of living, Haitian President
René Préval identified increased agricultural production as a top priority in his country. Once the victims of recent flooding receive the care they urgently require, investment in rural Haiti -- for environmental rehabilitation and increased food production -- should finally eclipse a focus on the creation of low-wage assembly plant jobs.
The writer directs Trinity Washington University's Haiti Program.