Help For Haiti

Haiti Before

Haiti After

From the Daily Beast
When it came to Haiti, France was first a brutal colonizer, and then a usurious bully. Tunku Varadarajan on why it’s time for reparations.
A little history
Haiti's chronic impoverishment began at its birth in 1804, when, having overthrown its French rulers in a bloody, 12-year slave revolt, the newborn nation was subjected to crippling blockades and embargoes. This economic strangulation continued until 1825, when France offered to lift embargoes and recognize the Haitian Republic if the latter would pay restitution to France—for loss of property in Haiti, including slaves—of 150 million gold francs. The sum, about five times Haiti's export revenue for 1825, was brutal, but Haiti had no choice: Pay up or perish over many more years of economic embargo, not to mention face French threats of invasion and reconquest. To pay, Haiti borrowed money at usurious rates from France, and did not finish paying off its debt until 1947, by which time its fate as the Western Hemisphere's poorest country had been well and truly sealed.
And the suggested solution
France must now return every last cent of this money to Haiti. In 2004, at the time of the 200th anniversary of Haiti's independence, the Haitian government put together a legal brief in support of a formal demand for "restitution" from France. The sum sought was nearly $22 billion, a number arrived at by calculations that included a notionally equitable annual interest rate.

In this era of multibillion-dollar bailouts of private banking institutions, $22 billion should scarcely raise a Gallic eyebrow. But to Haiti, the sum would be a godsend.

But this story is not one of law and legality alone, nor even one of wealth and poverty. (France's GDP is $2.85 trillion, while Haiti's is a mere $6.95 billion.) It is, rather, one of historical justice and political morality: No one can dispute that an extortionate and bullying treaty, concluded at a time when France was an imperial hyper-puissance and Haiti a friendless fledgling, is an ugly stain on France's national conscience.

While I agree with the moral argument, I disagree with this article on two points.

First, Haiti is not France's problem alone despite the historical relationship. As a country in the Western Hemisphere, the OAS nations need to step up with immediate monetary and physical aid. Haiti is in our backyard, so to speak.

Second, sending a $22 billion dollar check, like writing a aid check to a banana republic, is just asking for the funds to get squandered or absconded.

I think that France should spend the money on infrastructure in Haiti. Rebuild the ports, roads, bridges, airports and water treatment facilities....and if there is any money left over hospitals and schools. These are things that France does very, very well. Using the funds this way would bring jobs and technical know how to Haiti and stimulate the local economy.

While France's immediate response in terms of humanitarian aid has been strong.

La France envoie 400 membres de la Sécurité civile
Paris a dépêché d’Istres un Airbus A310 avec à bord une soixantaine de membres de la Sécurité civile. Trois avions de transport militaire emportant une cinquantaine de personnes et du 12 tonnes de matériel humanitaire sont arrivés de Martinique. Le dispositif va être complété avec l’envoi d’un hôpital de campagne, d’une soixantaine d’infirmiers, de 400 membres de la Sécurité civile et deux navires militaires, qui apporteront des équipements de terrassement et des hélicoptères Puma.

Eventually, I hope that France will find a way to invest the $22 billion in infrastructure projects and help rebuild the country that has suffered so much for so long. Haiti should be an island paradise not an island hell hole.