End of “The Comedians,
” Beginning of “The Tragedians”, a Diaspora in Haiti
It is 1961. On January 4, a task force created by president-elect John F. Kennedy presents its “Report on Immediate Latin American Problems”, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v12/d2 . The report warns about Russian and Chinese Communism creeping into the Caribbean, South and Central America, and furthermore, advocates policy recommendations including regime change in Haiti. The report fears that the despotic and unstable Duvalier government could become infiltrated by pro-Communists, causing the administration to fail and the country to explode at any time. From this, Kennedy becomes resolute for political change in Haiti, and reaches out to leaders such as Clément Jumelle, Daniel Fignolé, Louis Déjoie. The task is to devise and reach a new and common “accord” for national transition. However, no accord is ever reached. François Duvalier’s destructive regime continues until his death in 1971, and follows by his son Jean-Claude who perpetuates the family dictatorship for almost another twenty years.
It is 1967. I have already been in Mexico for a year, studying medicine. The star-studded dramatic political newly released film “The Comedians”, based on Graham Greene’s novel about the murderous Duvalier regime, is seen through the eyes of a White hotel owner in Port-au-Prince. In it, Duvalier quells every dissent with an iron fist, causing the country and the people to descend into ruthlessness, moral degradation, and Hell.
It is 2022. I have retired from medical practice and now routinely travel to Haiti every month to supervise my investments and lead our non-governmental organization Haitian Resource Development Foundation <hrdr.org>. Again, the sky, the air, the soil, the cities, and the raucous conversation are full of “accord fever” for a transition away from one-man rule. With hindsight, this seems like “déjà-vu all over again.” Party bosses, self-styled civic leaders, presidential aspirants, and social climbers have coalesced around their respective accords.
For several months, many Haitian citizens, organizations and political parties opposed to the prolonged period of rule by decree have met for two purposes. The first one has been to critically examine the branches of Haitian government, and their intention and capability to protect and maintain society, commerce, resources, and institutions. The second purpose has been to propose improvements in form and function of government and accountability. This is a process of nation-building that has not occurred in Haiti for more than two hundred years.
The work products are being called “accords.” Different accords are circulating. Each contains dozens of “articles” that express qualitative goals for action and change, but the process has been at a standstill. This is because a) the accords are competing for acceptance, b) efforts to combine them have failed, c) none of the working groups have either the authority or the money to implement them.
It is axiomatic that successful strategies for change must have what’s known among boxers as a “one-two punch.” Up to now, the accords have a “one punch,” that is a wish-list of qualitative goals, e.g. public safety and security, free and fair elections, honest government, food self-sufficiency, respect for human rights, etc. But they do not have the “two punch,” namely quantitative objectives that give the accord articles priority, sequence, feasibility, authority, accountability, and affordability. Said another way, for each article, the following questions should be answered:
- When will implementation begin and by when will it be completed?? None of the accord articles have definite starting and completion dates. This is a Haitian symptom where the political calendar for fiscal budgets, elections, taxation, etc. has long been suspended, postponed, or thrown out the window, without an idea of when they will resume. But without starting and completion dates, there is no sense of urgency. And without a sense of urgency, apathy sets in. Therefore, the tendency is for each step to take much longer than necessary.
- In what sequence will they be implemented? None of the accords have their articles arranged by priority or by recommended sequence. Decisions about national change are made in terms of sequence, i.e. which first step will make the second step possible, and so on. Thus, as-is, the accords have no sense of direction. In a country like Haiti with very limited willingness, know-how and resources, lack of direction is fatal.
- Who will do the work? Each accord article concerns the transition of a current state of governance to a future state of governance. But no accords specifically assign the work of each article or step to specific individuals, governmental and nongovernmental entities that have agreed to work together within a designated time-frame. Nor is there any estimate of the total number of people required to implement each accord articles, the necessary qualifications, and whether enough are available in Haiti.
- How much will it cost? To date, no accord group has published the total cost estimate for implementing their transition wish list, taking onto sideration that social-political transitions are usually more expensive than continuing to do things the same way. Everyone from the implementers at the top to the taxpayers at the bottom, need to be told and prepared for a period when tomorrow’s improved governance will be more costly than today’s degraded governance.
- Who will pay for it? No group has yet identified who is empowered, well-financed, capable, and willing to pay the billions of dollars for making such significant governance transitions. Until the costs are estimated, and sources of money are identified, solicited, and received, the accords themselves, while fundamental, are intellectual fantasies for an imaginary nation.
- What strings will be attached? In his message to the United Nations, the prime minister had admitted that Haitians cannot monetarily afford the democratic transitions called by in any of the accord groups, not even his own accord. Caution: if funded from abroad, profound changes will likely not come free, for “the piper will call the tune.” The donors can be expected to require or create a team of experts to answer the remaining essential questions (who, what, where, when, how, etc.).
Example: public safety and security – At present, there seems to be consensus both in and abroad that public safety and security throughout the country is of the highest priority. Upon consideration, this priority has at least four qualitative goals:
1. Establish safety and security of passage on Haiti’s streets and highways.
2. Eliminate blockades of neighborhoods, ports, and commercial centers.
3. Eliminate gangs, bandits and their sources of weapons, ammunition, vehicles, and shelters.
4. Eliminate the interlocking network of political, commercial and gang threats and terrorism.
For each of these four public safety and security goals to be accomplished, all previous six questions must be answered. As a result, without an attached price tag, none of the potential donors will fund this initiative.
As an example, let’s take the first one, “Establish safety the security of passage on Haiti’s streets and highways,” with zero-tolerance of anyone or anything that threatens or impedes the free flow of traffic, people, goods, and services along major transportation corridors. If this is the vision, then the mission is a design process that begins with a set of assumptions such as the following:
- Assume approx. one thousand miles of major roads and highways interconnecting Haiti’s cities and towns, not include roads within the cities.
- Assume the need for modern, fully-staffed, equipped, and mobilized police stations at least every ten miles along all major roads and highways. Thus, one hundred police stations to cover the country’s major transportation corridors, protect the free flow of traffic, deter and combat threats and attacks by gangs and bandits, capture and hold suspects for transfer to prisons, confiscate weapons, impound vehicles, etc.
- Assume the capital cost of construction, furnishings, equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, and communication is $300,000 per station. Multiply that by one hundred, thus $30 million for the capital costs of safety and security of Haiti’s major roads and highways.
- Assume the annual operations, maintenance, and fuel costs per station at one-third of capital costs, thus a total of $10 million per year.
- Assume ten police officers per eight-hour shift at every police station, thus thirty officers per station, thus three thousand specialized “highway patrol” officers to cover the country’s major roads and highways one an around-the-clock basis.
- Assume minimum police officer salary plus benefits, insurance, equipment, supplies and training $7000 per year. Multiply that by three thousand, thus $21 million per year.
- Assume administrative costs at ten percent of annual expenses (operations, maintenance, fuel, salaries, etc.) thus approximately $3 million per year.
With these assumptions and estimates, the total for capital costs and first year’s salaries, operations, and maintenance to provide public safety and security for the free flow of people, goods and services over Haiti’s major roads and highways is approximately $54 million. This budget once established, the Haitian government or a foreign donor that shares this particular priority will know what to expect for his money.
This approach called “Accord Economics: The Cost of Peace in Haiti”, applied to each and every accord article, will deliver the missing “two punch” that can relieve the national paralysis and international bewilderment that has blocked the progress, participation and funding of national transition goals and objectives for more than a year.
In summary, these dozens of accord articles cannot go forward without quantitative answers to essential questions such as who will do the work? by when? at what cost? and with whose money? Today as presented, these accords are like barbers in cities of bald men, jokes without punch lines, wish-lists of paralytics. This is tragedy, not comedy.
Aldy Castor, M.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
President, Haitian Resource Development Foundation (HRDF)
Director, Emergency Medical Services Haiti Medical relief Mission, Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad (AMHE)
Stuart Leiderman email@example.com
Environmental Refugees and Ecological Restoration