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Last Updated:5/22/03
Haiti: Democrats Vs. Democracy

By Robert E. White

Democracy has come to Haiti and the benefits are important and tangible. There is a grave political crisis, yet there is no threat of official violence. Haiti's leaders are looking for solutions within a constitutional framework.

Although former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's role has recently come under criticism, it was still of crucial importance for the United States, with the backing of the United Nations, to restore him to office in 1994. He laid the groundwork for democracy, first by abolishing the Haitian military over the misconceived objections of the United States and, second, by presiding over the peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to another.

These democratic gains, however, are overshadowed by the ominous political crisis caused by the dissolution of the Lavalas movement and the power struggle among its fragments. Frustrated by his inability to gain parliamentary approval of economic reform, President René Préval's prime minister resigned on June 9. The search for a successor has proved fruitless for five months, with Aristide leading the opposition to privatization and another, rival wing of the Lavalas party opposing the choice of prime minister.

Dispersion of power and responsibility

To fuse power with responsibility is crucial to effective government. The political crisis in Haiti is happening in good part because official responsibilities reside with the executive and legislature while power belongs to Aristide, the most popular politician in the country. Aristide launched a new wing of the Lavalas party called Lavalas Family, while the old wing, known as Lavalas Political Organization (OPL), maintains a relative majority in the legislature. President Préval is caught in between. Until there is a greater convergence of power and responsibility, Aristide can block any initiative.

On September 21 Préval decried this split in the Lavalas coalition, which has paralyzed his government:

This conflict is between those of us who were together in the past, a misunderstanding between those of us who fought together in the past against the coup d'état, and today we are battling one another. I think this is dangerous.

With his failure to meet a self-imposed deadline of September 26 for naming of a prime minister, Préval continued marathon negotiations with the various components of Lavalas. As of this writing, the Lavalas rivals are not even talking to one another. They have left the table, and discussions are going on separately. Whoever is finally nominated will face a dire emergency in a country where threats of political violence, strikes, and road blockages are becoming nearly daily occurrences. Their cumulative effect is bringing the country to the brink of ungovernability.

Underlying the crisis is the desperate need to reform and modernize the Haitian economy. The poverty of the Haitian people is a scandal to the hemisphere. The economic-reform package, which includes privatization of state-owned enterprises, has proved controversial both because it threatens the jobs of some state workers and because it has become a lightning rod for the population's justified frustration with the economic status quo. In effect, the Haitian people have won the battle for democracy but are baffled and frustrated in the battle for economic progress.

The slowness of reform has all but exhausted the patience of donors, who have bent over backwards to accommodate the political complexities of Haiti. Nevertheless, their patience may need to be further tried or the entire reform package may be lost along with much of Haiti's democratic leadership.

Haiti suffers under a crisis not only of leadership but of loss of faith in the political process. In the 1990 election that brought Aristide to power, 95 percent of the people turned out to vote. Last April 6, with nine senate seats, two chamber seats and close to six hundred local councils at stake, only 5 to 10 percent of the people bothered to go to the polls. Haitian politicians likened it to a popular boycott. With cries of fraud and manipulation echoing around the country, the elections commission has been unable to schedule runoff elections. The result has been a weakened president, a truncated and fragmented parliament and a caretaker prime minister without the authority to make major decisions.

The political forces in Haiti

1. Aristide. While president, he appeared to signal his support for the economic reform package, yet only a few months into the Préval presidency he began attacking reform and, in particular, privatization. When the Lavalas movement, under the leadership of the veteran political leader Gérard Pierre-Charles, continued its support of the government, Aristide took the dramatic step of creating his rival Lavalas Family.

As a young priest, Aristide seemed to seek confrontation with Church authority. As a revolutionary, he condemned dictatorship and called for democracy. As president, he visibly chafed under the institutional restraints of the constitution he had fought so effectively to restore. As ex-president and no longer part of the formal decision-making process, his distrust of institutions intensified. With the creation of the new party, Lavalas Family, Aristide appears to have reverted to the ecclesiastical authoritarianism he once condemned. Confronted with a Lavalas movement escaping his personal control, he did not seek to build new coalitions within the party. Instead he excommunicated his longtime friends in the old Lavalas and created a new church, without doctrine or dogma except unquestioning loyalty to its leader.

Without Aristide's vision and courage, Haiti would still suffer under dictatorship. Paradoxically, the new challenge for Haitian democratic leaders is how to move the levers of constitutional power in the face of Aristide's anti-institutional bias.

Although Aristide has been out of office for almost two years, he remains the most influential political figure in Haiti. He has been widely criticized for deals he is alleged to have made and for the way he has opportunistically abandoned positions he took while in office. Perhaps most damaging to him in the eyes of ordinary Haitians, he no longer shares their experience of poverty, but rather lives in a style that has more in common with the privileged few. In spite of these negatives, however, he remains the odds-on favorite to be elected president of Haiti in the year 2000, when the constitution will allow him to run again.

2. OPL. The original Lavalas partyCnow known as the Lavalas Political Organization, or OPLCis still the governing party. Despite his close personal ties to Aristide, President Préval has not broken with OPL, and the parliament is controlled by it.

Given Aristide's undoubted gifts as definer of the Haitian esprit, it will be an uphill struggle to maintain OPL as a functioning, coherent party. The April 6 elections, with their abysmally low turnout, favored the rival Lavalas Family candidates. As a result, OPL denounced the elections, citing abuses of power and technical flaws and calling for the resignation of the elections commission. The United Nations and OAS criticized the elections as well, while the United States accepted them. When Préval declined to take the dramatic step of annulling the elections, OPL refused to cooperate in the naming of a prime minister.

Yet despite its electoral reverses, OPL does have some important advantages. Its leader, Pierre-Charles, is universally respected as a democratic statesman who never wavered in his loyalty to the constitutional government during Aristide's exile. Pierre-Charles has also built strong ties of loyalty with local officials throughout the island. Another positive factor is the rising popularity of younger parliamentary leaders such as Kely Bastien and Alex Fils-Aimé who speak convincingly of the battle between those who work to build a framework of responsible government and anointed leaders to whom personal loyalty is the transcendent virtue. How to keep OPL together, to keep it from splintering, is a daunting but crucial task as it is on this accidental party that, at least in the short term, democratic progress depends.

3. Miscellaneous parties. Another asset in the cause of institutionalizing democracy is an unwieldy mix of smaller parties with unduly disparate platforms. It would be a mistake to dismiss these politicians as leaders without people. Counted in their number are men and women of talent and vision who can see beyond the present crisis. They range from the sturdy social-democratic veteran Victor Benoit to the fiery, charismatic Evans Paul, former mayor of Port-au-Prince. Their groupings are united by their distrust of Lavalas in either of its manifestations, their anger at those who presided over the seriously-flawed April 9 elections, and their determination to use the present crisis to reformulate the rules of the political game to give them a better opportunity to compete.

4. "Popular organizations." These are small advocacy groups which have sprung up spontaneously throughout the Haitian people's democratic struggle since the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986. They frequently articulate the population's justified anger with the status quo. Organizations such as the Jan Tonbe Tonbe (JTT, "No Matter How It Falls, As Long As It Falls") call for the resignation of the government and have declared partially-observed general strikes C the degree of effectiveness being difficult to gauge in a country with 60 to 70 percent unemployment. The strikes are credited with hastening the departure of Prime Minister Rosny Smarth and his government last June.

The rhetoric of JTT is frequently laced with the threat of violence: "We are going to hold conferences, gatherings, and, possibly, if we have to invite the people to take up arms against these people to force them to leave the National Palace, we will incite them to violence."

National reconciliation

Both wings of Lavalas must now contend with the anger most Haitians feel at the failure of political actors to rise above their own narrow self-interest. Those who fostered and participated in a process that brought some direction and cohesion out of the current political chaos would earn the gratitude of the Haitian people.

On September 16 a member of the lower house spoke for many when he urged the different components of the Lavalas movement to "unite their forces" in time to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the military coup d'état (September 30). Deputy Garry Guiteau said, "For those of us who are still Lavalas, we should be working together." He called for a "profound reflection."

Dilemmas of aid policy and privatization

United States $458 million
European Union $467 million
Canada $133 million
France $121 million
Germany $76 million
Japan $28 million
Switzerland $20 million
Holland $12 million
Other $140 million
Inter-American Dev. Bank $761 million
World Bank (International Dev. Association) $377 million
International Monetary Fund $131 million
U.N. Dev. Program $38 million
Other U.N. $50 million
  $2.8 billion

(By William Goodfellow and James Morrell)

Aid to Haiti is administered by a plethora of international banks and national aid agencies who have met in consultative-group meetings chaired by the World Bank to coordinate policy. While the aid package has a strong humanitarian element, the overarching theme is stimulation of private-sector growth and participation in the global market. As in many other countries, this capitalistic approach collided with protected enclaves of the Haitian economy and political system. Government workers in overstaffed ministries or unproductive state corporations feared the loss of their jobs. Since many of these workers belonged to the few effective unions in the country, their grievance took on a social tinge. Foreign banks were threatening the few jobs left in a country tortured by a dearth of jobs.

The mandate for private enterprise as the engine of growth is rooted both in the World Bank's charter and the ruling ideology of the Western world, and its rationale has been borne out in recent decades as Third World and former socialist countries alike have found this form of development most conducive to growth. Its capitalist model is clearly superior to the chaotic bureaucratic-mercantilistic structure inherited by the democratic Haitian government. Thus the World Bank-led consortium approaches Haiti not only with the power and leverage of its money but with a strong moral case, namely that its approach has lifted more people out of poverty than any other and even its former ideological critics have been converted.

It must be further said in favor of the aid consortium's approach that it often sought to avoid an inflexible imposition of this doctrine on Haiti and always allowed for a large element of emergency relief and poverty alleviation in its aid package. In a meeting with nongovernmental organizations in November, 1994, Inter-American Development Bank president Enrique Iglesias promised to "break the rules for Haiti." The aid donors had been frustrated by the decades of misrule and corruption in Haiti and recognized the advent of democratic government as a unique opportunity.

The very names "World Bank" and "International Monetary Fund" are misleading in the case of Haiti because all of the bank's loans to Haiti are from its soft-loan affiliate, the International Development Association, and are almost equivalent to grants, as is the majority of the fund's loans as well. IDA's and the Inter-American Development Bank's loans in Haiti come directly from the taxpayers of the developed countries and are not "bank loans" in any sense. In their actual nature they are scarcely different from the grants of the national aid agencies.

In their administration the World Bank and IMF operate as a club of the rich countries. The word of the United States is predominant among the executive directors, though it is nearly always coordinated with other leading stockholders such as Great Britain and West Germany. The meetings of the executive board are conducted in secretCa serious anomaly because the executive directors do no more than allocate public money at these meetings, in much the same way as a national legislature voting in open session. Indeed, here may be one of the roots of their insensitive and so-far- unsuccessful approach to Haiti. The World Bank seemed to acknowledge as much when last April it held its consultative-group meeting in Haiti and opened it up for the first time to Haitian nongovernmental organizations.

In sum, the World Bank-led consortium was well-suited to work through an established government able to enforce its decisions. It was not well-suited for the situation it found in Haiti Ca weak government floating atop a fragmented society traumatized by a decade of political fighting and the embargo. This was a society in which the state workers comprised one of the few well-organized sectors. While these workers were a small minority of the population, many among the poor majority aspired to such jobs and did not equivalate their elimination with progress. Similarly, the notion that the economic salvation of Haiti lay in stimulating the "morally-repugnant elite" to invest and create jobs also was less than self-evident to the majority. A number among them had been radicalized by the harsh experiences of the past decade. Many poor Haitians viewed the rich with a mixture of envy and hostility, and quite a few saw them as a parasitical class, not the engine of progress. The World Bank and IMF presidents traveled to Haiti and spoke on radio and television. The Agency for International Development hired a Canadian public-relations firm to make a pitch for economic reform. These appeals to capitalistic efficiency went over the heads of much of the Haitian population because the theory was alien to their experience.

Rather, as in any severely-abused population throughout this century, the Left seemed to be speaking more directly to their concerns. Here, the international left's critique of aid agencies, grounded in their abuse by the United States in its ideological wars in Vietnam and Central America, had a certain resonance in Haiti. The critique of structural adjustment and "neoliberal" policies was quickly picked up in Haiti, to the point where thirty members of the lower chamber of parliament, including its president, formed an "Anti-Neoliberal Bloc." Thus to a hard core of resistance comprising those who felt directly threatened was added a much larger mood of skepticism which did not much differentiate between a world bank, an international monetary fund, and the all-too-familiar local rich.

Responding to this popular mood, attacks on the government blame the "neoliberal policies" of the World Bank and IMF for Haiti's deep-seated economic woes. Haiti's people and popular organizations have seized on this rhetoric in their desperate need to articulate the people's suffering and evince a response from the rich and powerful. A typical offering from a self-styled popular organization reads as follows: "The new chosen government must separate itself completely from the neoliberal program. This new government must have in its program options for education, health and also a clear definition of policy to create jobs in the country."

In response to this attack, however, it must be mentioned that the scorned neoliberal program contains $132 million for education, $423 million for health, water and sanitation, and over $1.2 billion for jobs creationCa total greater than Haiti's entire annual national income. This money comes from over two dozen international donors, ranging from U.S. AID to the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, the European Community, and the national aid programs of Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Venezuela.

The spokesperson went on to threaten Préval with a dire fate if he did not comply. He would not be able to flee abroad, and "The day will come when the people will rise up, become wild, and no one will be able to hold them back, no barriers will hold them back."

The populist call for economic isolation ignores the advantage of Haiti's easy access to the U.S. market and the huge discrepancy in wage levels, in which Haitian labor is grossly undervalued and can only gain in an efficiently functioning free market. The highly emotional attacks on the World Bank and IMF encourage demagoguery and scapegoating in Haiti, which, if not checked, could lead to aid donors being targeted as in Somalia.

The dilemma of technically-motivated aid cuts

Add to the above mix the primordial fact that the population had the vote and politicians unattuned to the popular mood were unelectable, and the result was a situation in which the donors could meet in January, 1995 and commit $2.8 billion for Haiti, a good part of it fast-disbursing, yet by October 1997 have only spent $1 billion of that impressive sum. In the hemisphere's poorest counry, $1.8 billion of aid goes unspent. And according to the Inter-American Development Bank Haiti risks losing $400 million of this if does not resolve its political crisis by the end of October. Although some of the failure to disburse is because of the natural lag between decision and implementation, the majority is because of Haiti's political crisis and inability to satisfy the donors' criteria.

For instance, less than a year after the restoration of the Haitian government by twenty-two thousand American troops, the World Bank withheld budget aid to the government in a dispute over the pace of privatization. Haiti had failed to carry through on its commitment to rationalize the public administration, and still does. President Aristide had endorsed the reform, if tepidly, and his prime minister Smarck Michel had pursued it. But after the Lavalas landslide in the elections in the summer of 1995 Aristide had second thoughts and the parliament aggressively questioned the prime minister. The 1987 constitution gave parliament the final word, and it was clear the package would not pass. The prime minister resigned and the bank withdrew its financing.

It had ample grounds. Most of the Haitian government's expenses are for civil-service or state-corporation salaries in Port-au-Prince. For example, 95 percent of the agricultural ministry's budget is for personnel and most of that is in Port-au-Prince. It is 40 percent overstaffed. The quality of services the various ministries supply is low and tends to be restricted to the better-off areas. The Haitian government has no capital budget; that is left to aid agencies. Without reform, much of the World Bank's budget support was going to be wasted. It would be, as congressional aid critics like to say, "money going from the poor folks in the rich countries to the rich folks in the poor countries."

There were other institutional reasons as well. The bank's staff was under severe pressure to cut the failure rate of projects. Haiti had yielded a disproportionate number of projects so classified. The main reason for them, the staff studies held, was the bank's failure to insist hard enough on reform. Staff also was frustrated with the dilatory ways of the Haitian bureaucracy and suspicious of the lack of transparency in letting bids.

From a larger management point of view, however, it made little sense for the United States and world community to restore a government at such cost and risk, then proceed to cut its aid. This was a true dilemma. Some of the aid would be wasted, yet it was too soon for the United States and the other bank stockholders to insist on full compliance with measures which, while desirable, would be politically difficult even for a government better settled than Haiti's.

An argument could be made that these conditions need to be phased in over the medium and long term so that those who would lose their jobs in the rationalization of public administration, even if they were unqualified, would be absorbed by a safety net or the private sector. To insist on them now would be to expose the precarious Préval administration to attacks from the left and right and make it a tempting target for Haiti's many political opportunists. But the counterargument is that the reforms are conducive to self-sustaining growth and jobs creation for the poor majority, rather than a well-connected few. These are reforms that have proved their worth in the high-growth economies of Asia and Latin America. Delay merely coddles a privileged, unqualified bureaucracy at the expense of the vast majority.

Playing politics with aid: The U.S. congressional performance

If the Haitian parliament seemed to have shirked its duty, the U.S. Congress emerged in 1995 as a major destabilizing and destructive actor. Some politically attuned members saw in Haiti a lucrative source of embarrassment to President Clinton if the situation went bad. The more radical among them, such as Indiana Republican representative Dan Burton, were not content to wait for it to go bad but bent every effort to hasten that end.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held nine "attack hearings" at which members accused administration witnesses of perjury and cut or placed holds on a variety of aid to Haiti, ranging from aid for education and health clinics to piping clean water to rural communities. Cutting off this aid, it was contended, would force the Haitian government to prosecute alleged assassins in its midst. In three years of subpoenas and grilling of ambassadors and foreign-service officers under oath, however, no evidence was adduced of any Haitian government assassination program, much less of a Clinton administration attempt to cover it up.

In retrospect, neither side gained political mileage from the hearings. What the hearings did do, however, was put the Clinton administration in a deep defensive crouch and totally drain it of the necessary risk-taking and imaginative capacity that it needed to cope with the deteriorating Haitian situation. Every AID hire, every discussion with a Haitian politician was suffused with the fear of the congressional committee chairmen. U.S. soldiers were removed from Haiti as quickly as possible and the U.N. military mission was left to the Canadians and Pakistanis. No wonder that the international financial institutions and private investors also soon showed similar aversion to risk-taking.

The discerning Haitian public immediately recognized the congressional moves as an exercise in domestic politics. For all of the omissions and sins of the Haitian government, political assassinations were not one of them, as virtually anyone who lived in Haiti could attest. The Republican cuts in aid melded in with the World Bank's as just so many instances of foreign coercion to be resented.

No Answer: Selling the Phone Company

The telephone company, TELECO, offers a good case study into the complexities of privatization. There are 50,000 telephone lines in Haiti, although only 30,000 to 40,000 actually work. The U.S. embassy estimates there is immediate demand for at least another 45,000. According to a Haitian businessman, an efficient company could sell 300,000 lines if the service were fairly priced. However, the state system does not have the capital to expand, and the current system is so overloaded that it is often impossible even to get a dial tone. Not only does TELECO forgo revenue every time a call is not completed, it also is missing out on revenue available from the demand for an almost tenfold increase in working lines.

Although TELECO is a financial disaster by almost any measure, there are some who are benefiting. The true cost of switching an international call is about two cents. An embassy economics officer said while most companies double this when they bill their customers, the Haitian system charges two dollars for each call it switches. TELECO earns about $2 million a month in hard currency for the central government. Because these funds are free of the restrictions placed on foreign aid, the Haitian authorities, many still loyal to Aristide, can spend the money to reward their supporters.

The Haitian phone company is scheduled to be privatized in February, 1998. The U.S. Agency for International Development has allocated $3.4 million to facilitate its sale. Given the massive capital investment needed to modernize the system, it is doubtful the state will get a lot of money for TELECO. Moreover, any would-be purchaser must worry that the phone company will be expropriated by some future Haitian government, perhaps headed by Aristide if, as expected, he wins the presidential election in the year 2000.

The long-term payoff for the government in a free-market economy should come from sales taxes paid by customers and corporate taxes paid by the private telephone company. As economist Georges Werleigh has pointed out, in Haiti people, especially the rich, do not pay taxes, and this is true for rich companies as well. Indeed, the electric company's ten biggest corporate customers do not even pay the company for electric service, let alone pay taxes on earnings. Therefore, once any of the nine state-owned companies are sold, the Haitian government forever loses any chance of seeing that revenue again. Until Haiti has a functioning tax-collection system, it is hard to see how the government will benefit from privatization.

Another issue is the thousands of excess employees any purchaser likely would want to fire. In a country where two out of every three workers are unemployed, corporate downsizing is fiercely resisted by unionized workers. Some provision must be made to take care of workers who are laid off, even if they are promised jobs sometime in the future. Haitian unions are the most vocal opponents of privatization, for in the short term at least, they know jobs will be lost. Unless AID and other aid agencies are willing to guarantee job security for anyone laid off by a newly-privatized company, the unions and their political supporters can be counted on to bitterly oppose any privatization plan.

Just who will buy the company is another contentious issue. Haiti does not have a stock market where individual shares of stock could be sold to middle-class investors; there is not much of a middle class. The only likely buyers would be members of the local elite or foreign investors. The prospect of turning over the country's phone company to rich Haitians or rich foreigners understandably has little populist appeal.

Altogether, the aid holdups emanating from these various sources have contributed to political uncertainty in Haiti, leading also to hesitation by private investors to commit long-term. The result of this collective failure to spur development is the ongoing tragedy of the poor in Haiti, as dramatized in the recent horrific ferry accident.

The debate over privatization

It is difficult to argue that Haiti's government bureaucrats are better managers than private business owners would be. Visitors arriving at Haiti's decrepit state-owned airport, and particularly those who try to make a call using the state-owned telephone system, are immediately confronted by the shortcomings of the current state of affairs.

Like almost everything else in Haiti, however, the issue of privatization is complex, confusing, and impossible to separate from history and politics. Indeed, the very fact that the U.S. embassy and all the international financial institutions are so enthusiastically promoting privatization is enough to convince many Haitians that it is not in their best interest to sell off valuable state enterprises at fire-sale prices. As one Haitian observer put it, after struggling for two hundred years to gain control of their government, Haitians can't understand why they must now give it away. Aristide has recanted his earlier tepid endorsement of U.S.-backed economic policies. Even though his government agreed in writing to sell off nine state enterprises, he now says the policies are merely making the rich grow richer. (The nine companies include the electric and telephone companies, the port and airport, a cement and a vegetable oil plant, a flour mill and two banks. Most are losing money, and the flour mill and banks are closed. The flour mill has been sold.)

In Haiti one does not need a poll or focus group to gauge the unpopularity of privatization. Indeed, it has become a symbol for the disappointment Haitians feel at the lack of progress since the restoration of democracy in 1994. In spite of the $2.8 billion in aid pledged by developed countries and international financial institutions, the lives of poor Haitians have gotten worse, not better. Granted, they are not being killed by the military, but common crime seems out of control and about two-thirds of the work force is unemployed. The disappointment and anger are palpable. The security threat in Haiti is not from a civil war but a civic explosion.

While in the abstract privatization might seem like a good idea, in Haiti it must be accompanied by a social welfare plan to protect the thousands of workers who would lose their jobs. As well, a regulatory authority must be established to make sure the new owners do not overcharge their customers. In addition, Haiti must have a functioning tax-collection system if the government is to recoup the revenue lost by selling off the phone system and other state enterprises. Finally, few buyers would want to spend the billions necessary to modernize Haiti's phone and other systems unless they had some kind of insurance to protect them from expropriation.

All of this is a tall order, especially if a desired February 1998 deadline for privatization is to be met. Like so much else in Haiti, this target date is likely to slide. Meanwhile, most Haitians will continue to do without phone service, and those few lucky enough to have a working telephone line will just have to keep trying to get a dial tone.

Review and recommendations

As a direct consequence of President Clinton's initiative in returning President Aristide to power, the acute political crisis Haiti is experiencing is playing out without officially-sponsored violence and, thus far, within the limits of constitutional order.

Yet it would be rash to place much more stress on this new and fragile democratic system. Both domestic and external actors react to each new manifestation of the crisis by pulling on the new shoots of democracy to see if the roots are still there.

For too long the international community has justified its lack of action by referring to the unique character of Haitians and by the observation that they will pull things together in their own way and at their own time. But what if this latest in a long series of crises has put strains on the system to the point that the fragmented body politic is incapable of pulling out of the crisis? Democratic solutions demand some consensus. What should have served as a unifying theme C modernization with international support C has become the point of division.

A way must be found to reformulate and re-present the economic and administrative reform package or the whole cause of modernization and poverty alleviation is likely to be lost. The grievance of a relative handful of state workers concerned about losing their jobs is containable with the right economic, social, and political measures. But when this grievance is combined with the struggle of the poor to understand and identify the source of their misery, the result has been an angry politics of scapegoating. In the face of the facts, a huge aid package oriented toward poverty alleviation is grotesquely miscast as a poverty-generator.

Here, a recent bipartisan staff study of the House Foreign Affairs Committee points the way out of the crisis. It urges the United States to strongly back a series of immediate measures to reinvigorate the economy and help create permanent private-sector jobs. To be effective, this effort must include funds to provide a social safety net, as recommended by President Préval.

Importantly, this study points toward the renewal of wholehearted U.S. support for Haiti, shared across the executive and legislative branches, that would allow the ordinary Haitian to see some substantial benefits from the democracy backed by the United States and the international financial institutions. Only after such an immediate influx of aid and reinvigoration of the economy will Haiti's political leaders muster the courage for longer-term reform and modernization.

All politicians, including Aristide, are operating in a climate of widespread rejection of the political process. The constitutional framework itself, which has so far been observed, is in jeopardy.

Indeed, the hour is so late that it may take a major international initiative to extricate Haiti from its crisis. While realistically speaking, international pressure will be exerted on Haiti in any case, what is essential is that it be done openly and be focused on a clear, achievable, consensual goal.

The need for greater international involvement is heightened by the impending expiration on November 30 of the mandate for the U.N. military mission in Haiti. The 1,170 Canadian and Pakistani soldiers have provided a security back-up for the Préval government. Their departure will come at a time of increasing public insecurity. The newly-trained Haitian police, barely two years old, are far from ready to take over from the U.N. mission. The government will need outside security assistance, but ad-hoc bilateral arrangements are an imperfect substitute for the U.N. mandate.

It would be reckless for the international community to continue its hands-off attitude. Following up on the visit of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a high-level delegation should go to Haiti to urge some minimum consensus among the Lavalas politicians. Far from impinging on Haitian sovereignty, such a delegation would merely add its voice to that of Haitian public opinion.

With 70 percent unemployed or underemployed, an average income of two U.S. dollars a day, and one-third of children below the age of five malnourished, a large part of Haiti's population is at the very brink. Unless there is decisive action by the international community, Haiti may be headed for a humanitarian disaster and the destruction of its hard-won democracy.

The core task in both Haiti and among its well-wishers in the United States is to build a consensus for Haitian development and jobs-creation. Supporters of Haiti abroad must encourage both public aid and private investment in Haiti. Rival Haitian politicians must unite in understanding the state as a facilitator of growth for the economy as a whole rather than a jobs machine for a privileged few.

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