Haiti: Closed to Locals and Diaspora but Open to Foreigners for Business
From colonial time to the present Haiti, the nation, continues to offer more to foreigners than her own citizens. Shaataauh Marbres, S.A., a company run by a number of Haitian professionals from the United States, secured a permit of exploitation for one of its marble quarries located in the south of Haiti after almost two decades of trying.
Shaataauh entered into a contract of adhesion, a take it or leave arrangement, that gives the Haitian government the right to collect monthly 2,000.00 gourdes or USD43.00 for every hectare that the company owns (see Article 18.1 of the PROTOCOLE D’ACCORD); 5% of the company’s monthly sales revenues (Article 18.2 of the ACCORD); USD 0.20 per every ton of stone that the company extract (Article 18.3); and the death nail, in addition to all of the aforementioned, a whopping 50% of the company’s net profit. Meanwhile, foreign companies get leases in return of royalties that are far less than 5%.
With such terms, we must ask whether Haiti is open or closed to the diaspora and the locals. What is of interest to the diaspora, particularly Shaataauh, is to take a chance on rebuilding the homeland. Haiti, the land, is rich in natural resources. She has gold, oil, bauxite, stones, and many other minerals (for a non-exhaustive list of natural resources and estimated worth thereof see appendix G of Dr. Margaret Mitchell Armand’s book, “Healing the Homeland,” published in 2013 by Lexington Books). Yet, Haiti, the nation, is portrayed as a garbage dump, a place where the people are forever begging to subsist- thereby, justifying the presence of infinite number of useless NGOs, and a place that introduced HIV to the world as her sole contribution to humanity. Truth be told. Haiti, the country, offers little to her citizens at home and in the diaspora. Haitian banks do not loan money to start-up businesses…period. The micro loans that they offer obligate the borrower to freeze-up in the account maintained with the lending institution the equivalent of 33% of the amount that they want to borrow. The loan’s high interest rate is so crippling that the loan further ties the borrower to the impoverished conditions that she sought to escape. Microfinance, as per University of Michigan’s associate professor, Aneel Karnani, “doesn’t cure poverty. But stable jobs do. If societies are serious about helping the poorest of the poor, they should stop investing in microfinance and start supporting large, labor-intensive industries. At the same time, governments must hold up their end of the deal…”
Shaataauh is open for business but the country of Haiti is not. Despite having assets with a worth of more than half of a billion dollars, Shaataauh cannot secure a mere five million-dollar loan/investment to build a state of the art training and transformation center. The terms given to Shaataauh under the present contract further demonstrate the government’s lack of concerns for the 8.8 million residents living in poverty. Despite the high level of poverty and unemployment rate, the government has no development banks, programs, or plans to aid entrepreneurs desirous to create stable jobs for the unemployed.
Haiti, the country, continues to burden and discourage the diaspora in investing though she claims she is “Open for Business.” In 2013, the diaspora contributed over 1.5 billion dollars into Haiti’s economy; money that the diaspora could have used to purchase stocks or invest in ventures to build wealth and secure their retirements. Instead they sent it home to care for their love ones knowing that without such remittances their relatives are likely to die of hunger or commit to a life of crime and/or prostitution. A report published by the French Government in June of 2014 gives us a glimpse of what Haiti’s current financial state is. The report states that the Haitian government was able to maintain equilibrium of balance of payments because of the 1.5 billion dollars received from the diaspora plus some 750 million dollars received from foreign aids-a number that has been reduced by 60% since 2010. The report further cautioned that “Le gouvernement Haïtien doit trouver le moyen de stimuler la production et les exportations afin de réduire la brèche commercial.» While the publication is well intentioned, nonetheless it is misleading. Haiti does not trade much with France, meaning that she does neither import from, nor export much to France, thus she is able to maintain equilibrium with that country. But as to Haiti’s closest neighbors, the Dominican Republic and the United States, she is at a disequilibrium because in 2013 she imported goods worth USD 3.318 billion while exporting only goods worth USD 874 million, mainly from “the textile industry.” The “textile industry,” primarily set-up and run by non-Haitians, only uses Haiti’s cheap labor. The proceeds of these exports do not contribute to alleviating any of Haiti’s societal ills. Workers are paid a daily wage equivalent to 5 U.S. dollars without any health benefits and/or fringe benefits. For a more comprehensive reading on the economic state of Haiti, please go to the following link: http://photos.state.gov/libraries/haiti/231771/PDFs/ccgfinalcopy.pdf.
Haiti imports more than she exports thereby causing her financial demise/bankruptcy. Despite her bankrupt state, Haiti, the country, continues to set up barriers for her sons and daughters who would like to return and restore her despite the fact 8.8 million Haitians out of the 10.4 million live in poverty. Of the remaining 1.6 million Haitians, one million barely make ends meet and may at any given time fall into poverty. As per the IHSI, Haiti’s middle class is made up of only two percent of the population in comparison to the income threshold of the Latin American Region, meaning that only 208,000 Haitians possess a level of consumption which exceeds the10 US dollars a day. (http://www.ihsi.ht/pdf/ecvmas/ecvmas_seuil/pauvrete%20et%20inclusion%20sociale%20en%20haiti%20francais.pdf)
The company Shaataauh, made up mostly of Haitians from diaspora, came to establish a stone industry to help spur employments, rebuild communities, schools, hospitals, strengthen families and the local and national production, which is at an all time low; instead of welcoming Shaataauh, the country opted to offer her a contract of servitude. The terms of the contract are so oppressive and discriminatory that Shaataauh conscientiously dare not seek investors. Discriminatory because the government gives differential treatments to foreigners as to the percentage of royalties they are to pay in exchange for their leases. Foreign companies are allowed to pay only 2.5% in royalties, while Shaataauh is to pay more than 55% in royalties. Hence, the reason we are not seeking investors at the present time but rather embarked on this campaign to raise needed funds to train Haitians in the art of stone extraction, transformation and sales. Currently, the principals of Shaataauh are not salaried.
Many questioned why Shaataauh wants to go into mining of all things. The answer is and will always be because mining does not only represents opportunities but is vital to the rejuvenation of stagnating economy. Gavin Hilson, in his book the Socio-Economic Impacts of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining in Developing Countries published in January 2003, argues that small-scale mining plays a pivotal role in alleviating poverty in the developing world, and contributes significantly to national revenues and foreign exchange earnings. Therefore, the reason Shaataauh subscribes to the traditional wisdom that mining is the key that converts dormant mineral wealth into schools, homes, hospitals, ports, and other forms of capital that directly contribute to economic development.
Shaataauh acknowledges that it is not the lonesome voice in the wilderness. A number of local businesses and investors from the diaspora are facing the same dilemma. However, we, at Shaataauh, in our quest to help build a fair and equitable society, are willing to go the distance and establish a precedent that says there are honest Haitians and yes, you can invest in both the nation and the country of Haiti with peace of mind.
Together we can make a difference. Supporting Shaataauh is to support Haiti.
Avoka marcel Denis fè you chita tande ak Lesly Prudent jou 14 Me, 2015 kote li kontinye detaye vizyon Shaataauh pu Ayiti e kijan Ayisyen nan peyi a ak sa ki lotbo dlo kapab pote kole ousinon envesti nan konpayi an
Si ou bezwen konnen vizyon Shaataauh, Marcel Denis fè yon shita tande ak Lesly Prudent kote li detaye objektif Shaataauh ak rezon ke li bezwen èd frè ak sè Ayisyen nou you.
“L’équilibre de la balance des paiements reste assuré grâce aux dons internationaux (750 MUSD, 9% du PIB) et des transferts des haïtiens émigrés (1,5 Md, soit environ 18% du PIB). Cette situation n’est néanmoins pas viable sur le long terme puisque le montant des aides tend à diminuer (-60% depuis 2010). Le gouvernement haïtien doit trouver le moyen de stimuler la production et les exportations afin de réduire la brèche commerciale.”
Haiti derives income from international donations/foreign aids, which amount to 750 Million dollars in United States currency, and remittances from Haitians living abroad/diaspora, which amount to 1.5 billion dollars. As the article states, such a situation is not a viable long term solution since neither source will endure forever. We know that foreign aids have been reduced by 60% since 2010; what we do not know is by what percentage have the remittances been reduced. I remember former Presidential candidate Jacques-Édouard Alexis giving a speech in Miami on that subject when he served his second term as Prime Minister in 2006 and the best solution he came up with was for Haitians in the diaspora to travel to Haiti with their children to have them be acquainted with their relatives so that the cycle of impoverishment and burdening of the diaspora can continue. If Alexis was concerned enough about it some 9 years ago so that he asked that our children take on the burden of sending money back home, we can only guess about the state of Haiti now and what it is likely to be in five years from now. Your thoughts.]]>