Thursday, February 11, 2010

Forgiveness for Haiti? We should be begging theirs

The very idea of Haiti as debtor needs to be abandoned. We in the west should pay arrears for years of violations

Naomi Klein, Thursday 11 February 2010

"....Haiti's vulnerability to climate change is not only – or even mostly – because of geography. It is Haiti's weak infrastructure that turns challenges into disasters, and disasters into catastrophes. The earthquake, though not linked to climate change, is a prime example. And this is where all those debt payments may yet extract their most devastating cost. Each payment to a foreign creditor was money not spent on a road, a school, an electrical line. And that same illegitimate debt empowered the IMF and World Bank to attach onerous conditions to each new loan, requiring Haiti to deregulate its economy and slash its public sector still further. Failure to comply was met with a punishing aid embargo from 2001 to 2004, the death knell to Haiti's public sphere.

This history needs to be confronted now, because it threatens to repeat itself. Haiti's creditors are already using the desperate need for earthquake aid to push for a fivefold increase in garment-sector production, some of the most exploitative jobs in the country. Haitians have no status in these talks, because they are regarded as passive recipients of aid, not full and dignified participants in a process of redress and restitution.

A reckoning with the debts the world owes to Haiti would radically change this poisonous dynamic. This is where the road to repair begins – by recognising the right of Haitians to reparations."

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