Thursday, January 12, 2012

Saving Haiti from Helping Itself

An article at Salon.com examines the lingering aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, which killed an estimated 220,000 Haitians and left the country in even more squalid ruins than before. According to Salon, most of the billions in international aid cannot be accounted for and only a trickle had reached the ever-suffering Haitian people.

This is to be expected, of course. There is no greater financial scam in history than the modern spectacle of international aid. Whether directed by any of the myriad United Nation agencies, or by well-intentioned NGO's (non-governmental organizations, to use the lingo of the casino) virtually none of the money committed by mostly Western governments and citizens ever reaches the victims of this or that disaster in the Third World (read: mostly, Africa, the Carribean and parts of Asia Pacific and South America - in short, places with the darkest skin colors). Most of the money magically disappears, lost in accounting snafus, and safely channeled to Swiss or Cayman bank accounts, or misallocated to someone's cousin's construction company, or just vanishing completely into the bureacratic maze like customer funds at MF Global.

Salon, however, points to a particularly pernicious example of how the aid game works - to enrich government do-gooders and their patrons at the expense of the very people the aid is supposed to help. In Haiti, this has to do with rice, which the United States has been sending to the island as relief.

But the economy of rice in Haiti says everything about the condition the country is in. The U.S. government subsidizes and “donates” ton after ton of rice in Haiti and in so doing has through the last several decades completely undercut Haitian rice farmers and left them destitute and migrating into cities where they live in hovels that were destroyed by the quake.

As recently as the early 1980s, Haiti was producing just about all of its own rice. Now more than 60 percent is imported from the U.S., making it the fourth largest recipient of American rice exports in the world. That was before the quake and now with donated rice coming in as well, Haiti is even more awash in rice while American agribusiness makes billions of dollars every year through generous government subsidies.

There is perhaps some bitter irony here that the subsidies were promoted in large part by President Clinton to help his home state of Arkansas, the largest rice producing state in the U.S., thereby crippling a sector of the economy in Haiti where Clinton has worked so tirelessly to help with the recovery.

Some relief! Here Haitians, we Americans will give you food, and in the process destroy your already degenerate economy. Meanwhile, powerful interests in the US end up putting a huge amount of US taxpayer money into their bank accounts - all in the name of charity.

Haiti would be better off if it were to expel the aid workers, the NGOs, foreign missionaries, the UN and Americans "there to help the Haitian people," and deal with their own problems using their own resources, no matter how limited. Haiti has been a basket case since it massacred its French masters 200 years ago, likely because it's level of human capital is so very meager (read: low average IQ), but international aid will do nothing to change that, and indeed, will only make it worse.

So much worse.

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