Haiti: Going Nowhere Faster


April 20,2008: Food riots this month have left at least a dozen dead, including one UN peacekeeper. The cause is rising food prices (doubling in the past year).

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. While it has been independent for two hundred years, it has been unable to create an effective government. Today, half the population is illiterate. A third of the national income consists of foreign aid. Most of the food is imported. It's cheaper to line up for foreign aid food, than to farm the exhausted soil. About 80 percent of the population is, by international standards, poor (living on less than two dollars a day). Unemployment is over 60 percent. Bad government is the main reason, but population growth is another. When it became independent two centuries ago, Haiti had a population of half a million. That grew to 740,000 by 1900, 3.4 million by 1950, 4.6 million by 1975 and 8.7 million today. Food aid, improved public health and gradual impoverishment of the population has allowed this to happen.

The UN considers Haiti a challenge. If Haiti can be revived, than no nation on the planet is beyond salvation and resurrection. But the corruption and political violence has made it difficult to enact necessary government reforms and efficiencies to build infrastructure and effectively absorb foreign aid. Attempts to build schools and roads end up with most of the money stolen by politicians, or criminal gangs. The 9,000 UN peacekeepers can barely keep the peace, much less suppress the corruption and widespread lawlessness. At the moment, no one has a solution, and everyone is waiting around in the hope that one will show up.


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