Rumors Abound

In Haiti, rumors abound. Therefore it is near impossible to get a good handle on what is happening in the country, and especially in the government. There are a few hopeful signs, but others are not. Some programs that the government takes pride in appear good at first glance, but when analyzed more closely, one can see that they hinder development rather than promote it.

For example, the current government has established a National Social Assistance program that is called “Ede Pep” (Help the people). Basically what this is, is a transfer of cash to people in need. In a country where 57 percent of its 10 million people exist on less than 1 US Dollar a day and 82 percent on less than 2 US Dollars a day, the transfer of cash that Ede Pep provides seems like a good thing. 25,000 handicapped people and 25,000 elderly have received cash. In addition, 57,000 destitute mothers have also received cash. 22,000 university students will receive 2,000 Gourdes (=$US 47.62) a month to help with their educational expenses. 400,000 solidarity baskets have been delivered. These baskets contain items that can feed a family of five for 10 days. But do these one-time or limited-time gifts really constitute development?

Do the 2,000 Gourdes that the students receive foster the development of the educational system in Haiti? First of all, the money goes directly to the students and not to the universities. Needs in Haiti are great, so it is almost certain that the money will not go solely to pay for school fees. In addition, the time this program will last is limited. Would that money not be spent better by using it to improve elementary schools which suffer from lack of materials? Or increase the salary of teachers who are paid poorly and often not on time? The impact of money thus spent could be greater than simply giving cash stipends.

To a number of Haitians, it seems that the government is buying the support of these sectors of the population, something they say happened under Duvalier.