February 11

Haiti – why is she so poor?

Haiti, the unfortunate country which has just experienced a devastating earthquake, has received billions of dollars in foreign aid over the last 50 years. But as  Lawrence Harrison points out in The Wall Street Journal on 5 February, 2010, “Haiti and the Voodoo Curse”, she remains the least developed country in the Western Hemisphere. (Most of the piece is only available to subscribers. It was republished, but only in the print version, in The Australian on 10 February. News Limited has indicated that an increasing portion of its publications will be similarly restricted in the future.)

Harrison says Haiti’s indicators of progress are closer to Africa's and that it has defied all development prescriptions.

The blame for Haiti’s poverty is often attributed to the actions of the French and the US governments in Haiti’s early years. Her colonial mistress, France extracted an enormous indemnity. Then the  US ostracised Haiti, official recognition being only granted in 1862.  The reason, according to Harrison, was a fear that Haiti’s successful slave rebellion would spread to their slaves.

….slavery and the US…

It should be recalled that the American War of Independence was not just about the tax the British sought to impose to recoup some of the cost of defending the colonists from the French. It also involved an alliance between Northern lawyers and slave owners who feared the consequences of the decision freeing a runaway slave handed down by  Lord Mansfield in Somerset's case, which the British Parliament refused to reverse. Also heavily involved were those who wanted to take vast tracts of Indian land made inaccessible by King George III.

….contrast with Barbados…

Harrison contrasts Haiti with Barbados, a British colony until 1966. The British had imported slaves into Barbados from the same part of Africa as those brought to Haiti.  But the British Parliament  abolished slavery, and by independence, he says, the inhabitants of Barbados became “black Englishmen” .

“ Barbados,” he says “is a  stable democracy on the verge of first world status.”  Those of her politicians who are pushing for a politicians’ republic are likely to have had second thoughts after the massive defeat of the Vincentian referendum in 2009.

Harrison’s conclusion is as we have long argued, culture matters, race doesn’t. And the culture of Barbados is that of a constitutional monarchy or crowned republic.


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