Preval in Washington, DC

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Michel Nau_

Preval in Washington, DC

Post by Michel Nau_ » Fri Mar 31, 2006 8:52 pm

Last Wednesday April 29, 2006, the Haitian community of Washington, DC, and “Friends of Haiti” had the opportunity to meet president elected Rene Garcia Preval, to congratulate, and to wish him good luck in his second term in office as President of Haiti.

The meeting was held at The National 4-H Council, 7100 Connecticut Avenue Chevy Chase, Maryland; a high scale suburb of Washington, DC. The event was scheduled for 6:30 PM. the audience was composed mostly of Haitian professionals, former Haitian embassy employees from the Duvalier era to present and retired Haitians and foreign employees from the World Bank and other international institutions in Washington area.
Preval made his apparition at the auditorium around 8:00PM.The Haitian ambassador, Raymond Joseph invited the audience to sing the US and Haiti National anthems, thus prayers in French and in Kreyol follow.

Preval meeting with the community was candid and relax, He did not stand at the podium or seat at the high chair that was designated for him, he pull an ordinary metal folding chair, and got as near as possible to the audience.

His campaign: When I thought that I was out, they pull me back in.
He briefly talked about his campaign, and how the decision to run a second time for office was not his, but the people, who were a little bit skeptical about the objective of the Interim government in tandem with the CEP. As the events are unfolded, they thought that it would be wiser to stay alert, and make sure that the interim government and associates would not pull out a dead rabbit from the hat by presenting to them a Manigat or a Baker as a choice for the next president of Haiti.

They went a step a head and decided to once again opt for Rene Preval to run.

Once again destiny knocked at his door. The man was at the right place at the right time. It was the decision of the people not mine he said.

The voting and casting process: The People were on alert!
He continued to explain that during the whole process of the elections, he decided to stay home and silence and not to make comments or public appearances like the other candidates were doing to gain the people's trust. He spent most of his time at his political headquarter in Marmelade, the city where he spent most of his time after his first term in office.

Finally and after several miscalculations by the CEP, and other issues that we all know, he was declared President of Haiti. After more than a month, he has not been able to officially take office. That does not bother him he said since the National Palace has tenants in it, and it wouldn't be polite to call the people to have them evicted.

At the meantime, he is touring several countries to keep contacts and to gain supports for his government, and that why he is here in Washington, DC.

Social Issues
One of his major concerns is the fear factor that exists between the elite and the masses declared Preval. This fear needs to go away in order for the country to move forward. Preval talked about Social Capitalism an idea from Dumarsais Simeus, who was unable to run due to citizenship documentation problem. Simeus was an official member of the group who accompanied him on his tour.

For the Social Capitalism to work, Preval said that he preferred UNITY over Reconciliation. He goes by explaining that UNITY is when rich and poor, black and white, elite and masses are united together for the cause of their community or Haiti as a whole on a common ground.
Preval's government plans to create activities where rich and poor could meet, work and have fan without this fear factor of each other and above all reduce the level of poverty that creates this invisible barrier amongst the Haitians.

One example that comes to my mine and could bring UNITY amongst us is for the private sector as well as government agencies to organize annual picnics where the sons and daughters (pitit pep la) of the labor force could have the opportunity to play and eat together the whole day with the sons and daughters of the (Patronat), managers and CEO's.
Hopefully, after many years of this wonderful encounter, these children will grow up knowing each other, and this invisible barrier of fear could go away.

Economy
He talked also about the economy and how the state has to subsidize for gasoline at a rate of 2 million dollars a month to run 30 megawatts of electricity. This is a major problem that he would like to tackle as soon as taking office.

He continued to say that privatization may be the key for the government to stop with putting people to job for doing nothing. The privatization of Ciment d'Haiti and la Minotery d'Haiti is a success story. They are both up and running. The state is doing a double dipping as 30% shareholder, is collecting dividends, and as government, it's collecting taxes. The state doesn't have to be involved with in management, administration, and human resources placement in those enterprises.

Teleco, and the Electricite d'Haiti, could have offered a better services with a little bit of competition he said and they may be next in line for privatization.

“We are aware that all the assistance in the world cannot make up for poor governance. And, as the state has grown to be the country's largest employer, corruption and lack of efficiency have permeated all levels of government. This must change. We also strongly believe that the rich human resources of the Haitian Diaspora can be an invaluable asset in rebuilding Haiti. We are appealing to the many Haitians living abroad and working in technology, the environment, health and education to provide our ailing country the resources it needs to recover and flourish” reported the Miami Herald.

He then invited at the podium, a member of the private sector of his entourage, Mrs. Gladys Coupette, a well experienced banker from Citibank, I believe who talked about the Hemispheric Opportunity Through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE) that could have the potential to create 80,000 low income pay jobs in less than six months. Introduced by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, the bill will allow up to 3.5 percent of total imports to arrive from Haiti duty free, a quite needed boost to Haiti' s failing economy.

Mrs.Coupette eulogized the Haitian Diaspora for supporting Haiti by contributing an annual foreign exchange of over 800 million dollars to the Haitian economy. She said that the Diaspora is the piggy bank of Haiti and look forward to see the Diaspora intelligentsia come back and help with the reconstruction of the country.

Corruption in the economy.
Next Preval invited Rene Max Auguste from the Valerio Canez group to step in to the microphone and to do a follow up about the economy in the area of taxation. Mr. Auguste using statistics had proven that about 60% of taxes are not being collected due to corruption, and black market. One example that he chosen is the City of St Marc where an annual revenue of 400 million dollars is being lost and pocketed by a group from the private sector and crooked government employees.

The level of corruption is so high that it is impossible to play fair game. If businessmen A and B both are in rice importation. If A pays taxes legally, and B does not pay due to corruption, sooner or later, B would put A out of business.

Auguste continues by saying that the government needs to do a better job in fighting corruption and level the plain field for everyone.

With the help of technology, and with the collaboration of other countries, the solution to corruption in the economy could be alleviated. With the help of the shipping companies, and through their internet services, the Haitian government could have access information related to each shipment coming to Haitian lading docks. The name of the owner, the content of each container, and the time of arrival should be provided to the Haitian custom services by these shipping companies.

This could give a head start on precautionary measures for a more accurate taxation.

And finally, was the turn of Rene Monplaisir, a young Lavalas militant from Cite Soleil to come to the podium. He welcomed the initiative of the HOPE project that Mrs. Coupette talked about and he welcomed the opportunity for this project to create low income job for his poor neighborhood, bout he is also concerned about security and protection for these factory workers who could be exposed to crimes such as muggings, robberies, extortions, kidnappings etc... He welcomed the idea of the factory workers to have financial facilities such as banks, credit union, mortgage companies etc at their poor neighborhood, to have direct deposit, and to reduce the level of cash which is a magnet for crimes.

He welcomed the idea to have seminars and workshop for these factory workers on how to manage their money.

He concluded that the UNITY that President Preval is promoting should be without hypocrisy.

Summary
Preval, the private sector, and the masses need to come clean, and they did. Again, it was a candid conversation. They are aware that they need to develop an environment to attract investments from local entrepreneurs, from Haitian living abroad and from international investors.

They know that the environment constitutes a prerequisite for job creation in the private sector.

They know that providing security and building basic infrastructures are keys to start a better future.

Preval and his associates apparently, did not have time to take questions from members of the audience. Unfortunately, time was running out, and they have to leave the building by 10:00PM.

It was a long day for them, and they had to wake up by four o'clock in the morning to catch a commercial plane the next day. 2 microphones were available and a long line of people waiting to ask questions, unfortunately, it did not happen. Why?

Other important things that I noticed, Preval did not mention Aristide's name, Lavalas, GNB, political prisoners, Neptune, So Anne and others, and the MINUSTAH contract that LaTortue signed.

Some of us after the meeting stayed outside and chat a little bit with some members of the private sector. I had the opportunity to discuss with them, and some young Haitians living in Washington DC area. During our conversation, what we noticed is that the private sector is not really looking forward for the younger generation of the Diaspora to come to Haiti looking for job.

They said that this idea could create more problems for the economy which already has 80% unemployment. They want them to stay abroad, work and make money just like their parents and grandparents did for decades. And if they really want to come back, they need to form partnerships and entrepreneurships with other Haitians and foreigners and to produce jobs creation...

A young Haitian said that: What Preval, and the private sector want are our parents and grandparents to come back to Haiti not to look for jobs but to bring their money to spend.

They want them to cash their pension fund, their 401K, their IRA, their equity in their home and move back to Haiti.

This idea is not appealing to most of the Haitian baby boomers and to a lot of us as children. He continued to say that he wouldn't let his old folks move back to Haiti regardless how nostalgic they may be.

If they don't want to live with me and my family, I would rather put them in a nursing home in Florida, he said.

This young guy cracked me up when he said: After so many years living abroad and with all amenities, his parents will need water, hot and cold to take a bath, and “water closet”. They will be too old to go outside to a latrine. During the conversation, he said: On top of this, they may trip down and not be able to get themselves out, and if they made it safely, they may not be able to run fast enough back inside the house if being chased by a lougarou. They are not teenagers anymore.

Electricity is also a problem he added, they will need it 24 hours for their diet, and medications that are required refrigeration.

They will need a hospital with a decent emergency room in case of complication.

They will need good communication, and good financial services to cash their Social Security checks, and pay their bills.

Mr. Preval and the private sector need to start working on these issues, otherwise, Haiti may be my parent's field of dream, but if they[state and private sector] don't build it, I wouldn't let them go back.

Michel

Morisseau
Posts: 50
Joined: Fri Dec 12, 2003 7:26 pm

Post by Morisseau » Sun Apr 02, 2006 4:25 pm

I must take one minute to thank michel for sharing this with us today. Actually, i like the way things are being perceived from many key players in haitian politics. Well, Mich mentions some very important key issues that i know are related to the diaspora moving back home. In my opinion, this return home must not be or essentially for seeking jobs in order to become Mr & Mrs untel in Haiti rather to create job opportunities for the less fortunate. We must adhere to the very fact that a chance is now being given to Haiti to pull itself out of this chronic mess imported or not. We must capitalize on this UNITY over RECONCILIATION approach to see what will come out of it. Some sacrifice must be made at every level. I don't know about everyone else but, i can't wait to see most of us going back and forth in Haiti, creating job opportunities for others, enjoying the old good days, boosting the economy through tourism, inviting our friends to go with us and have a piece of our beloved land etc... Not too long ago, I accepted the fact that i was dreaming of a country that will never come to be...It seems now that history is proving me wrong. I must admit that I want to be wrong this time. Once again, thanks Michel...this is the kind of reading one ought to have instead of all these personal attacks because of a simple difference of view.

Michel Nau_

Post by Michel Nau_ » Mon Apr 03, 2006 12:33 pm

Morisseau wrote:[quote]In my opinion, this return home must not be or essentially for seeking jobs in order to become Mr. & Mrs. untel in Haiti rather to create job opportunities for the less fortunate. [/quote]
You are absolutely right Morisseau! At the top we have an administrative and professional level that is constantly improving through communication and computer technology and our young Haitian graduates a broad are coming back. And those at home who can't afford to travel and study abroad can now educate themselves and constantly improving through internet communication and computer technology.

Our upper and middle classes are moving at a higher pace compare to our bottom labor force that has not improved at all. We need to bring this force up to date, and to compete with Taiwan's and China's labor force. Years ago, products “made in china or Taiwan” used to be considered as “junk”, now they are getting better and better, and still affordable.

To summarize this issue Morisseau, I would like to recognize that Haiti was one the first countries in the Caribbean to have satellite communication, color TV, and now we are moving forward with cellular phone, solar energy, ethanol, etc.

What about the majority of the Haitians, what have we done to improve their life?
Why are they still using prehistoric device such as wood pine (bwa pin) as night light or medieval device such as wax candles or kerosene? Some of us are getting ready for the World Cup Soccer with satellite dish and 50 inches plasma TV, with plenty of food and drink for family and friends. What about the rest of our youngsters?
They probably will spend their time laying on their back and looking at shooting stars in the sky.
Morisseau continues: [quote]We must adhere to the very fact that a chance is now being given to Haiti to pull itself out of this chronic mess imported or not. We must capitalize on this UNITY over RECONCILIATION approach to see what will come out of it.[/quote]
Yes indeed, the government and the private sector need to organize and diversify more social activities to blend our people together. Mardigras and soccer games are the only time I know where elite and masses are having a good time together, and this is just for a short period of time. We need to see more social activities with constant continuity for this UNITY to concretize, and the fear of each other to disappear.
Morisseau wrote: [quote]Some sacrifice must be made at every level. I don't know about everyone else but, I can't wait to see most of us going back and forth in Haiti, creating job opportunities for others, enjoying the old good days, boosting the economy through tourism, inviting our friends to go with us and have a piece of our beloved land etc.[/quote]
After the fall of Duvalier, the return of the Diaspora to Haiti was like an exodus. People went their like un pèlerinage, a la terre perdue et retrouvée”. This return was for some to see old friends and family, to go to their parents graveyard, or to take a dive at the blue Caribbean sea, after so many years in the deep cold of the US and Canada. Some of us went back home and went straight to politics, and some of us seen an occasion to do monkey businesses.
It was like a Babel Tower, and we were delirious, and not serious!!

This is why Haiti is now in worse conditions than it was 20 years ago.
We need to do it in a more organized fashion. We need to do it as a group, and have a “hub” information center, a return home planner facilities”; where Haitians could get up-to-date information about the country, who is who, investments opportunities, infrastructures etc.

And above all Haitian Americans or Canadians should not go back home as “foreigners” or be second class citizens. They should have the right and privilege like any other Haitians.
Something needs to be done back home in order for the government and the private sector to gain the trust of the Diaspora.
Right now, there is no need for one to go to Haiti looking for job! One is going to be competing in a market that is already saturated, and with a level of 80% unemployment. One must bring the jobs and his money with him.

Good Luck

Michel

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