Sunday, January 17, 2010

The first Haiti relief offer that makes sense to me

I note from the BBC that the president of Senegal has offered land to refugees from Haiti.

President Abdoulaye Wade said Haitians were sons and daughters of Africa since Haiti was founded by slaves, including some thought to be from Senegal.

"The president is offering voluntary repatriation to any Haitian that wants to return to their origin," said Mr Wade's spokesman, Mamadou Bemba Ndiaye.

. . .

"Senegal is ready to offer them parcels of land - even an entire region. It all depends on how many Haitians come," Mr Bemba Ndiaye said.

"If it's just a few individuals, then we will likely offer them housing or small pieces of land. If they come en masse we are ready to give them a region."

The spokesman emphasised that if a region was given, it would be in a fertile part of the country rather than in its parched deserts.

There's more at the link.

It's perhaps ironic that Senegal (a country which is the source of many thousands of economic refugees and illegal immigrants to Europe) is offering refuge to Haitians: but the principle - getting them out of Haiti to a place where they can make a fresh start - is logical. There's nothing in Haiti to offer a future to most of its citizens. The economy's ramshackle (Haiti was ranked by the International Monetary Fund in 2008 as 135th out of 180 nations in terms of Gross Domestic Product per capita - Senegal, by comparison, was 111th). There are minimal natural resources, gross over-population, and no employment opportunities to speak of. All the aid that's being promised to Haiti right now is going into a bottomless pit . . . it'll be absorbed, used up, and there'll be no improvement to show for it. Those begging for food and help today will be doing the same tomorrow.

I think the only real answer to the poverty in Haiti - which was there before the earthquake, and will be there for generations to come unless a solution is found - is to move a large part of the population off the island. They can make a new start somewhere else, and their departure will lessen the pressure on Haiti's very limited resources from those who remain. That'll give them a chance to begin building a real economy from the ground up.

I know, I know, it's a pipe dream in terms of political realities . . . but it remains the only hope, IMHO. Unless that happens, the situation will just revert to hopelessness once more.

Oh - and has anyone noted the fact that whilst former President George W. Bush was pilloried by the mainstream media and the Democratic Party for his alleged failure to respond adequately to the humanitarian disaster left by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he's nevertheless been asked by President Obama - along with former President Clinton - to help with relief efforts in Haiti? Clearly, the 'Katrina hangover' hasn't affected his usefulness. The irony! It burns!



Don said...

I'm with you on this one. That was the one practical idea I've heard so far. Hopefully the word will get out and some of those poor folks will take them up on the offer. They'd likely be much better off in the long run.

Anonymous said...

One of my professors suggested several years ago that the only solution for haiti would be to remove the population and teach them all sorts of useful skills and trades while that half of the island was re-forested, had wildlife re-introduced et cetera, and then let the people come back. Sounds as if she wasn't the only one thinking along those lines.

Stranger said...

Haiti is a fine example of a country formed in the absence of an established political framework. As a result, Haiti has had 200 years of anarchy, corruption, and looting.

Toussaint l'Ouverture lacked time to provide a firm framework for a stable government. His capture by the French essentially sealed Haiti's doom.

Yes, rotating Haitians out for basic training in agriculture and rotating them back in to help create a stable infrastructure would most likely work. But who will pay and who will be in charge?

The UN? The most corrupt political institution on the planet? Not with their record of pot shooting civilians and raping children.

The US? We cannot afford it. And it is doubtful that this regime would want to.

Senegal? Cannot afford it.

The EU? No money and no leadership.

China? Perhaps, if they can see a way to establish a foothold in the Western Hemisphere.

And, as an aside, it appears George W. Bush actually did more good for more people than any past president - for less money.

His program to distribute mosquito netting has been the most successful anti-malaria campaign to date.

Katrina failure? I will talk about that when I have more time.