For years, I enjoyed his commentary on the Corbett List. He was always informed, always eloquent, always passionate about his people, majority class Haitians most especially. We corresponded on and off. I met him in Washington at a "500 years is enough" conference and I met him again later in Haiti. In fact, we shared a room one night at Ron Voss's residence, where I stayed in Port-au-Prince while serving as an electoral observer in 2000. We talked a lot that night, as he complimented me endlessly for an article that I had written (don't remember which at this point) and as I asked him question after question about one of his pet management projects at that time in Haiti, where he had returned for a few productive years. I remember reflecting at that time that a country that produced some first-rate idealists like Marx had to, one day, escape its condition of economic bondage. To me, Marx symbolized that hope.
Some of you may have previously read his article "Dyas... it's a class thing" on Windows on Haiti.
JUST THIS MORNING, I was reading a post that Marx sent to the Corbett list, I repeat, this morning. It may have been the last thing that he would ever write. I remember thinking that I had to bring his comments over to my "Environment and Development" section, along with a much longer article that he refers to in his note, on the topic of an alternative development for Haiti. Ironically, I would have already done so, if not for the fact that I was taken out today to enjoy "Father's Day". And it's just now, on my return that I checked to see what's new on the forum and noted Serge Bellegarde's announcement of this sad and shocking news. I can't help but think that he too was out like me, on this beautiful day, enjoying the love of family. A cruel thing to happen on this Father's Day. So much promise... extinguished by fate that waits for no one.
My greatest sympathy to his loved ones. To finish, I will simply include the note that Marx-Vilaire Aristide posted the morning of his death. Peace to his soul!
From: "Bob Corbett" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Haiti mailing list" <email@example.com>
Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2004 9:43 AM
Subject: 22422: Vilaire: Responding to Marina: Real, Sustainable Development in Haiti (fwd)
Marx-Vilaire Aristide wrote:Marina,
Charles Arthur has responded to your request for an alternative by posting policy recommendations and prescriptions that were developed in the mid-90s by Haitian development and civil society organizations. Unfortunately, they were ignored by the IFIs and Haitian policy-makers. Contact any of these organizations and they'll be more than happy to ela
borate and share their vision for what sustainable development would look like in Haiti. Two relevant groups come to mind: Haitian Advocacy Platform for an Alternative Development (PAPDA), and The National Association of Haitian Agro-Professinals (ANDAH).
I believe strongly in the strength of the model they've outlined. I believe it presents a more sensible approach to Haiti's development -- especially since the sweatshop model has never worked anywhere.
I wish to make a few additional points:
1. You write: "We need practical answers, not theory."
But Marina, all practical answers have some theoretical foundation. The "practical" sweatshop model to develop Haiti's economy is grounded on a set of clear, albeit faulty, theories. Here are two key aspects of this discredited theory:
-Haiti has no business producing food crops (e.g., rice) since it lacks the comparative advantage. So, let big US companies produce rice and supply it to Haiti in a zero-tariff environment.
-Those farmers who no longer produce food can now work for sweatshops. After all, Haiti's comparative advantage lies in its dirt cheap labor. So, let the sweatshops take over and let's have a happy marriage between cheap labor and international sweatshops.
Here are two key aspects of the theory for real and sustainable development in Haiti:
-Food self-sufficiency and security is paramount. In this sense, peasants and farmers should be supported and protected. Production of basic food for the national market is a major priority. Key sectors of the economy (like agriculture) need protection -- not unfettered invasion of cheap imports.
-Industrialization should focus on ensuring the transfer of skills and technology and linkages to the national economy.
2. Notes on Haitian agriculture and a few random things
Before you all start yelling about the lack of effective demand for rice or inability of Haiti to produce rice or accusing me of cooking up some conspiracy theory about the impact of cheap US rice on Haiti, take a look at these figures and come to your own conclusions (source: US Department of Commerce):
US Rice Exports to Haiti (in milled tons)
Furthermore, for the week dated May 6, 2004, we read that Haiti bought almost half (21,400 metric tons) of US rice sales. To top it off, we get this from the US Department of Commerce "The amount of cereal grains exported to Haiti in 2000 reached its highest point, totaling $82.7 million USD. Haiti cannot produce enough cereal to supply local demand." [source: http://www.export.gov].
Please note: prior to this invasion of US rice, Haitian farmers were ABLE to produce all the rice consumed by Haitians.
3. More facts:
-Of the more than $500 million that poured into Haiti in 1994-95, agriculture got 1.1%, education less than 1%; the environment got almost nothing.
-Haiti has the lowest rate of import tariff of any developing country in the world. You will not find a more open economy in the Americas. Not even the US, preacher of economic liberalization, has a more open economy than Haiti.
-Haiti is the largest market for US rice in the Caribbean; the 7th largest importer of US rice in the world (1997).
Think about this for a minute: The "poorest country in the western hemisphere" figures among the top buyer of rice from the richest country in the world! And that "poorest" country bought grain and cereals for $83 million.
The scandal is not that Haiti imported that much in agriculture from the US The real scandal is that Haiti -- until the bitter prescriptions of so-called experts -- used to produce these things for its dynamic and vibrant local market. Yes, vibrant and dynamic, as American rice exporters have come to know.
Now with cynical debonair, we are told that "Haiti cannot produce enough cereal to supply local demand." It's all so convenient, isn't it? Since Haitians can't produce, let big American agribusiness do it for them. And since they're not working the land anyway, why not dispatch them to sweatshops -- provided they don't get ideas about workers' rights, of course.