Op-ed by 1L Frandley Julien: Haitian Leaders Avoid Root Problems

The following op-ed by first-year FIU Law student Frandley Julien, Haitian leaders avoid root problems, originally appeared in The Sun Sentinel on September 30, 2012.

Frandley JulienThose who follow Haitian politics closely have noticed that, for the last 25 years, no government has matched the current team’s ability to come up with innovative ideas, or their eagerness to achieve quick results. However, one’s enthusiasm is quickly dampened upon the realization that no other government has had so little institutional knowledge either.

Therefore, the current government’s entrepreneurial spirit, uplifting at first, may mean more trouble for the country if its innovative drive is unleashed with little respect for the institutions, and without a clear understanding of what it would take to achieve irreversible democratic, economic and social progress.

The current government approaches Haiti’s challenges as if it were a new country, with no history or antecedents. Everybody agrees Haiti has a great potential for tourism, that its hard-working people could constitute the ideal workforce for scores of local and foreign businesses.

But what the government fails to realize is that until Duvalier’s departure, thousands of tourists were visiting Haiti on a weekly basis, that all the jobs we are trying to attract, we had them until then. Why did these enterprises leave? Why did the tourists stop visiting us? The answer is a no-brainer: political instability and insecurity.

How can we expect to attract tourists and jobs again if nothing is being done to tackle the root causes of the problem, and introduce the rule of law in the national lexicon? It would hurt the country more to start attracting foreign investments while it is not ready, and see them leave precipitously in a cloud of negative publicity, than to take the time to put one foot ahead of the other, and establish a clear plan to welcome foreign capital and visitors according to a well-planned timetable.

In a country like Haiti, with a long history of social injustice, the government needs to realize that an equitable distribution of the national wealth cannot be left to happenstance, and that strict guidelines and policies need to be implemented to achieve just that.

So far, the reconstruction has only benefited the traditional movers and shakers, with major international donors attributing sizable sums of money to already well-established private actors, at the expense of much needed public infrastructures and budding young entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, the government’s business mentality is driven by the urge to quickly “break-even,” consisting in scoring a few quick political points aiming at proving that things are moving in the right direction. However, for Haiti to get out of its abyss, it needs a government that subscribes to the need to implement structural policies, irrespective of their initial unpopularity or the time it takes to achieve results, as long as social programs are implemented to address the punctual needs of the weakest and neediest citizens.

If the current government really embodies the kind of change on which promise it was elected, it should refrain from the traditional tendency to adopt populist decisions that take advantage of the people’s weaknesses while aggravating their living conditions.

After its second carnival in less than 6 months, with the second one — the Carnival of Flowers, a resurrection of the Duvalier era — costing $1.5 million to a country that had to postpone the start of the new school year due to a shortage of funds, it is obvious which path the government has decided to take. Innovation in government is often a positive trait, but when combined with hubris, social amnesia and institutional ignorance, it is nothing short of a formula for disaster.

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