[Documents menu] Documents menu

Date: Mon, 16 Sep 1996 13:23:27 -0700 (PDT)
From: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@crl.com>
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@crl.com>
Subject: Guardian article on WB and Haiti 1
Message-Id: <Pine.SUN.3.91.960916132209.20026G-100000@crl9.crl.com>

Date: Mon, 16 Sep 1996 17:56:13 +0100
From: Haiti Support Group <haitisupport@gn.apc.org>
From: Charles Arthur - Haiti Support Group, London , UK

Bankers 'forcing migration'

By Richard Thomas, Economics Correspondent, The Guardian, Monday 16 September 1996

London, UK - The World Bank is privately warning that Haitian peasants could be forced to emigrate in order to find jobs, in sharp contrast to the Bank's public endorsement of a people first development strategy.

Ahead of the Bank's annual meeting in Washington in a fortnight's time, aid agencies said the disclosure would undermine attempts by the Bank to recast itself as a friend of the world's poor.

A draft Bank strategy paper on Haiti, which has been obtained by the Guardian, says that two-thirds of the country's workers based on the land are unlikely to survive the free-market measures imposed by the Bank.

Even if strenuous efforts are made by international organisations to secure agricultural employment, the paper concludes: The small volume of production and the environmental resource constraints will leave the rural population with only two possibilities: to work in the industrial or service sector, or to emigrate.

Andrew Simms, a spokesperson for Christian Aid, said the Bank admission would damage its credibility in the developing world. I dearly hope this is not Bank policy, he said. The suggestion that people in Haiti - a country rooted in rural life - should have to emigrate is impractical, insensitive and politically preposterous.

Embarrassed Bank officials insisted the document was a draft of a Haiti Country Assistance Strategy paper - the final version of which comes before the World Bank board tomorrow - and stressed that emigration was not part of the Bank's policy agenda. Geoffrey Lamb, the World Bank representative in London, said: It is simply an analytical warning of the way trends are going. It is not our intention that people should have to emigrate.

But the Bank's admission will fuel the already heated row within Haiti over the structural adjustment programme enforced on the country as a precondition of loans from the Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Opposition parties and trade unions in the Western hemisphere's poorest nation have fiercely criticised plans to privatise nine state-owned enterprises and lower import tariffs as detrimental to prospects for the poorest families. Aid worth $200 million (130 million pounds sterling) has been held up until the state sell-offs go ahead, according to aid pressure groups.

The Haitian president Rene Preval - who has styled himself President of the Peasants - is already struggling to force the privatisation bills through parliament. But the World Bank's top brass, Including President James Wolfensohn, have argued that privatisation and export growth are necessary to boost economic growth, which they argue is the best long-term anti- poverty strategy.

Charles Arthur comments: For over a year the Haiti Support Group has been working with Haiti's popular organisations to campaign against the World Bank/IMF Paris Plan (also known in Haiti as the Death Plan). Most recently we hosted a visit by Camille Chalmers, executive secretary of the Haitian Platform to Advocate for an Alternative Development. The above article is one result of that visit. It may be too late in terms of the privatisation legislation that has now been passed by the Haitian Parliament (albeit with a pathetically low attendance for the crucial votes) but the struggle over import tariffs continues. Readers therefore may find it useful to see that privately at least the World Bank sees no future for the peasantry in structurally adjusted Haiti. They can work in the assembly plants or become boat-people - so this was what Operation Uphold Democracy was all about.....