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Haiti : Which Strategy to Reduce Poverty ?


By Wooldy Edson Louidor

Translate from French by Menno Ernst

P-au-P., 25 Apr. 07 [AlterPresse] --- On Thursday 12th April, the Haitian minister of Planning and External Cooperation, Jean Max Bellerive, has launched the preparation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).

The context of this initiative is characterized by high costs of living, the increase or instability of prices from primary goods, the skepticism towards promises of international donors and the desperation among Haitians. The result is that more and more Haitians are willing to put their lives at stake and attempt to reach the USA coast or the Dominican Republic, in order to escape their « growing » misery.

The administration of President René Garcia Préval and Prime Minister Jacques Édouard Alexi keeps waiting, impatiently, for donations which are promised to them by countries, organizations and other donators of the international community.

It hopes that this PRSP equips them with the fundamental device that forms the foundation for processes of granting loans and debt relief by the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in favor of governments from countries with small revenues, such as Haiti.

In order to realize this, the government intends to open, « between now and December 2007 », a « national dialogue » about conditions and priorities of the country and the necessary strategies to promote growth and, most important, reduce poverty, one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of the United Nations (UN).

This new project will also establish a cooperation program which will serve as a framework for the relations of Haiti with his financial partners and for its needs and sources of financing.

ICF, predecessor of PRSP

PRSP is the predecessor of the Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF), created by the transition regime immediately after the fall of ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide on February 29, 2004. Afterwards, in July 2004, it was presented by the interim authorities during the donor conference in Washington.

The ICF was mainly centered on the organization of elections to terminate the political transition and also to the process of structural reforms in state institutions in accordance with specific macro-economic objectives. At the end of interim period, a Social Appeasement Programme (PAS) was also theoretically integrated.

The reforms have been oriented to the objective of redressing the economic crisis situation the country was confronted with and, more in particular, the social strata of the most disadvantaged areas.

The ICF was also created to serve as a bridge witch could lead the new government from the latest elections towards the elaboration and implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS).

Meanwhile, during the donor reunion held at Port-au-Prince on the 25th of July 2006, national and international social movements, such as the Haitian Platform to Advocate for an Alternative Development (PAPDA), Jubileo Sur América (JSA) and the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), demonstrated against any extension of the ICF, which they considered to be « in accordance with the neoliberal politics » of the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).

On the 20th of July 2006, the European-Haitian Cooperation (CoE-H) had published a document in the same context, in which questions were raised about the ICF.

This mixed platform made of European and Haitian organizations criticizing the initiative’s « lack of participation from civil society, from its start until its implementation, its succession and its evaluation, in the course of the last two years » (from 2004 until 2006).

They also regretted the absence of any process of consultation from the direction council of the ICF with « the poorest and most marginalized sections of Haitian civil society, those who are supposed to be the largest beneficiaries of the ICF ».

Questions and concerns of the social movements

The release of the PRSP reopens the debate between the Haitian government and the « anti-neoliberal » or « alternative » social movements about which development politics should be adopted and implemented in the country.

The predecessor of the PRSP, the ICF, is also being questioned in many other ways. One could, for example, wonder if « the audit and the independent evaluation of the ICF, in which donors themselves are engaged, has actually taken place in February 2006 » and what results are being produced.

Another question concerns the approach that will be adopted in the elaboration process and the implementation of the « national » strategy to reduce poverty, in a country where more than half the population has an income less than one dollar a day.

Which sectors of national life the government is intended to involve in the « national » dialogue about the PRSP ? Only the private sector, the executives, the experts, the donors and the international financial institutions, like it was the case with the ICF ? Or also organisations of the civil society, the citizens, particularly the poor themselves, who are the primary affected, are they invited as well to participate in the dialogue ?

The social movements are already starting to worry that this new project will be nothing more than a repeat of other governmental programmes, like the Social Appeasement Programme (SAP) and the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme, which they consider, just like the ICF, as total failures, as well in their design and application, as in terms of concrete and structural results in their concrete struggle against poverty. [wel me gp apr 25/04/2007 08:00]