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Date: Tue, 7 May 1996 06:43:35 -0500
From: "L-Soft list server at MIZZOU1 (1.8b)" <LISTSERV@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
Subject: File: "DATABASE OUTPUT"

--> Database ACTIV-L, 7501 hits.

> print 07386
>>> Item number 7386, dated 96/05/02 17:15:26 -- ALL
Date: Thu, 2 May 1996 17:15:26 CDT
Reply-To: haiticom@blythe.org
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: NY Transfer News Collective <nyt@blythe.org>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 14:6 5/1/96

Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit

Haiti polarizing around privatization

Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 14, no. 6, 1-7 May 1996

As officials of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Preval administration meet behind closed doors to fashion a neo-liberal austerity package for Haiti, the country's popular organizations and unions are taking to the streets to demand a different future.

Organizations and leaders from around Haiti are rallying to a large anti-privatization demonstration called for May 1st by popular organizations like the National Popular Assembly (APN), Collective Against the World Bank and IMF, SAJ/Veye Yo, and KODENA. Meanwhile, the secret meetings between the international bankers and Haitian government officials are now in their third week. Scarcely a glimmer of information about these negotiations (as Preval and his officials like to characterize their grovelling) has come out in the press since the banking officials arrived in Port- au-Prince on Apr. 15.

Yes, it's true, we should give more information about the negotiations, said President Preval, trying to deflect criticism during an Apr. 30 press conference. I think, in fact, it would have been good if we had put out a document to say what are the objectives of the negotiations.

But the Haitian people don't want more documents and speeches about intentions and objectives. They want to know what is being decided about the future of Haiti. They already know that the objectives are to further sell off the nation's assets so that the bankers can more easily collect interest on their loans and so coup-backing foreign and Haitian businessmen can more easily invest and profit. All this would occur, if this plan goes through, at the expense of the Haitian people who would lose their legal right to control the publicly-owned enterprises, lose their jobs, lose all protection from foreign imports, and attain new levels of suffering and hunger.

If Preval really wanted to inform the Haitian people, he could televise or broadcast the back-room wheelings and dealings. Instead, he has kept the people in the dark, while sending out emissaries to attack the critics of privatization.

I ask the people not to run to participate in the May 1st demonstration because you will be together with worthless associations, urged an Apr. 29 radio broadcast by Father Yvon Massac, a windy Lavalas priest who gained notoriety by openly demonstrating in Haiti against the putchists during the coup. When you oppose a legitimate government, when you talk about uprooting, you are sending the country towards misadventure... It is not good for the country...

Meanwhile, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the head of Preval's private cabinet, has also been travelling around Haiti, trying to convince the Haitian people that privatization is the only solution to the country's economic woes. However, his reception by popular organizations has been rather cool and was positively hostile in Cap Haitien on Apr. 24. Because of political instability and governmental irresponsibility from 1804 to 1994, Chavannes argued, Haiti today has no choice but to follow the neo-liberal road. By that logic, every country in Latin America, and even the entire Third World, must embrace neo-liberalism, since their political economies and histories all are marked by political instability and governmental irresponsibility.

However, the popular organizations in Cap Haitien so energetically rejected his pro-privatization argumentation that the Haitian police, backed up by U.N. occupation forces, had to come to escort Chavannes away from his presentation and out of town.

Of course, rather than wasting Haiti's limited resources on propaganda junkets to try to win the Haitian people to privatization (or perhaps it is all paid for by the $800,000 which USAID gave to the Haitian government to promote privatization), Preval would do better to simply make public the international bankers' plan for Haiti.

Some of this plan was revealed when Inter Press Service (IPS) leaked excerpts from a World Bank document dated Apr. 11 and entitled An outline of the aid strategy of the Bank group towards the Republic of Haiti. Not surprisingly, this document calls for such neo-liberal measures as the liberalization of trade so that Haiti can be transformed into a country with a competitive economy, in other words, eliminate all customs duties so that more goods can be dumped on Haiti and the state will have even less revenues. The outline also demands that the key state enterprises be completely and rapidly privatized in one form or another, whether it be Preval-favored Bolivian-style capitalization or any other formula. IPS also notes that the report calls for the deregulation of agro-industries and industry in general, i.e. more freedom of the movement for capital.

This neo-liberal strategy, which has proven so disastrous to the living standards of people around the world, is not only rejected by Haitian popular organizations, peasant groups, and unions, but also by Haitian economists who have closely studied their country's development options. Webster Pierre, who was a special (though neglected) economic advisor to President Aristide during 1995, has issued this March a report entitled Some Thoughts for an Alternative Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in which he seeks to demonstrate how the [SAP] put forward by the IMF (...) does not conform to the entire Haitian reality. The report was given to Preval, who has chosen to bury it rather than publicize it. But Pierre was in New York this past week doing radio interviews to criticize the IMF's policies and to point out some alternative measures, such as annulling the tariff reductions of Smarck Michel's government and putting a 110% tax on the import of luxury items and motor vehicles, of which about 24,000 have entered Haiti since Oct. 1994. Through a series of taxes, customs duties, and state investments in public enterprises like the telephone company and cement plant, the Haitian state, according to Pierre's report, could raise over the next 8 months 8.5 billion gourdes -- about $566 million US.

In short, there are many alternatives to the prescriptions of the World Bank and IMF, but there is no will on the part of the Preval government to look for them. It will only be through the force of the Haitian peoples' mobilization, like the May 1st demonstration, that the privatization project of Preval and the international bankers can be stopped.