Alex Dupuy's article is telling us, depressingly, what was already deeply predictable when the 'aid effort' began.
"So far, the IHRC [Interim Haiti Recovery Commission] has not done much. Less than 10 percent of the $9 billion pledged by foreign donors has been delivered, and not all of that money has been spent. Other than rebuilding the international airport and clearing the principal urban arteries of rubble, no major infrastructure rebuilding - roads, ports, housing, communications - has begun. According to news reports, of the more than 1,500 U.S. contracts doled out worth $267 million, only 20, worth $4.3 million, have gone to Haitian firms. The rest have gone to U.S. firms, which almost exclusively use U.S. suppliers. Although these foreign contractors employ Haitians, mostly on a cash-for-work basis, the bulk of the money and profits are reinvested in the United States.
That same logic applies to the 1,000 or so foreign NGOs that are operating in Haiti. These groups, which work independently of the Haitian government, reinforce the country's dependence on foreign aid and further sap the capacity and responsibility of the government to meet the basic needs of its citizens."
Kari Polanyi Levitt has been working on Caribbean economy for half a century. She happens to be the daughter of Karl Polanyi. She has recently written the following about Haiti. I have put a link to the full text on another thread.
"I am sick and tired of hearing Haiti referred to as the poorest country in the hemisphere. There is a profound ignorance... about Haiti. The most important thing we have to do is educate and inform our young people, not only about the history of Haiti, which is a glorious history, but about the culture and all the achievements of Haitians. Lloyd once told me that every school child in the English speaking Caribbean should be taken to see the Citadel in Cap Haitien. It is a gigantic fortress built on a mountain, accessible only by mule when I visited it now many years ago, constructed to resist Napoleon’s armies. The problem now is how to ensure that critical decisions concerning the reconstruction of Haiti can rest in the hands of Haitians. The sheer enormity of the external assistance offered by the international community and the inevitable military presence of the United States must not be permitted to bring further tragedy to the Haitian people. Let us put it this way, I heard Haitians in Montreal, where there is a very large community, say what we want most is Respect. What Haiti most wants, yes money of course is needed, is Respect."
Some of this reminds me of the NYT op-ed that David Brooks wrote about Haiti a year ago, which sparked a lot of reaction from plenty of anthro-bloggers (Barbara Miller and Savage Minds to name a couple). Here are the key parts for anyone who missed it:
"As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10."
And here's the real kicker:
"We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them."
Right. Planning is futile, and since Haiti is magically resistant to progress, other nations need to step in and take control. It's been a YEAR, and that op-ed still really irritates me! Mostly because people listen to that kind of "cultural analysis" far too often. Fatton certainly seems to agree with such thinking. I don't know how many of you are on the e-anth listserv, but one member sent out an email about the resurgence of the whole "Culture of Poverty" theme in a recent special issue of the ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Seems like it's never too late to bring back really bad ideas.
I am looking forward to the discussion with Mintz about this--especially considering the ways in which so many pundits and politicians think about and talk about Haiti. Overall, I think Kari Polanyi has it right--respect goes a long way. Thanks for posting that, Huon.