Systemic poverty in Haiti


It’s almost every Haitian’s duty to extol the beauties and virtues of the country that tend to go underappreciated or unnoticed by the outside world. This was so of our independence before France and the world finally acquiesced in it; it is so now of tourism, the highly advertised priority of our government; it should be so too of our greatest invention to date: the industry of poverty.

As the world becomes more and more vocal on topics such as systemic racism, gay marriage among others, it’s about time we — Haitians — start delineating systemic poverty in our country. As paradoxical as it may sound, systemic poverty acts as the main driving force of our economy today. It’s ubiquitous, just like Digicel and Natcom. The people love it. In fact, some are just too ignorant, resilient or needy to hate it, others too devious to reveal its cruelty.

It all starts with the NGOs; the likes of the UN, MINUSTAH, OXFAM just to name a few. How do you say no to security (hence MINUSTAH) when an elected senator believes that carrying a gun in plain sight is the best way to protest or get his point across? How you say no to (PIH) doctors, nurses leaving their home country, putting their lives at risk, to make a difference in communities where healthcare is simply nonexistent? How do you say no to an apparently genuine philanthropist who wants to feed your child on Christmas day? It’s simple: you just can’t say « NO ». The antiquity of Healthcare or lack thereof, our children’s hunger are what keep the grants coming, the raison-d‘être of these NGOs. We’ve become prisoners of our own misery, mentally bullied by the hidden avarice of the outside world due to our incapacity to reason collectively. Let’s face it: nearly every employed Haitian works for an international NGO. However vague or aimless their objectives might be, these NGOs are still, unfortunately, an indispensable player in the Haitian Economy. When a government, in the aftermath of the earthquake’s havoc, leaves the unique opportunity and responsibility to rebuild the country to the good graces of the international community; it showcases a lack of ideology, the insignificance of Haitian perspectives.

And then we have the riches. I personally have no interests or say in how people decide to build their financial empire. It is merely alarming, however, that only certain lineage or government ties, can realistically improve the chances of a young Haitian becoming rich in Haiti. This lack of option — my friends — represents the essence of systemic poverty. Politicians, educated or idiotic, bribe and coerce for power. The lucky and gifted civilians flee the country to pursue a career elsewhere. Many newborn babies are American or Canadian citizens just patiently waiting for the right time to leave. In the end, we’re left with corruption as the most attainable and attractive opportunity to the young mind. If you take away the naturally flawed NGOs, what else do we have? What is the other option?

As frustrations mounts once again in Haiti, we need to be reminded of this simple truth: whether elections happen or not, things will stay the same. We’ll still be prey to exploitation by the US, Canada and others. To them regular balloting — honest or not — signifies stability, a prerequisite for foreign investment. In reality, it is a fabricated recipe fed to unqualified leaders in order to hinder the evolution of poor countries. It’s the same old game we’ve played and lost time and time again. As long as we stay away from power plants, alternative energy, research, higher education, manufacturing, modern agriculture et cetera, the plan is working. I hope one day, the Haitian people can afford to say « NO ».

Mechanical Engineering, University of Florida


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