January 29, 2010

THEY NEED TO BE RECULTURED, NOT REBUILT:

What Haiti needs: A Haitian diaspora (Elliott Abrams, January 22, 2010, Washington Post)

"Rebuilding" and "recovery" would merely take Haiti, this hemisphere's poorest country, back to where it stood before the Jan. 12 earthquake. Surely, our goal is to do better. We must increase aid but also allow Haitians to help themselves, and there is no way they can do that sitting in a devastated nation. A substantial number of Haitians must be allowed to move to richer countries -- including ours.

Haiti has approximately 9 million citizens, and 1 million to 2 million Haitians live outside their country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, half a million people born in Haiti live in the United States, and estimates put several hundred thousand in Canada and as many as 100,000 in France. Those migrants send home $1.9 billion in remittances -- double the official aid flows and equal to 30 percent of Haiti's gross domestic product.

These sums are greatly exceeded by some of Haiti's neighbors. The 1.3 million Dominicans living in the United States send home $3 billion in remittances, an amount 20 times as much as official aid flows. A million Hondurans living abroad send home $2.7 billion, providing eight times the global foreign aid Honduras receives. The 1.5 million Salvadorans living here send home $3.8 billion, 15 times official aid flows.

A larger Haitian diaspora would be a far better base for the country's economic future than aid pledges that may or may not be met. If several hundred thousand more Haitians were able to migrate, those Dominican, Honduran or Salvadoran numbers suggest that remittances to Haiti would give its economy a huge and continuing jolt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 29, 2010 6:32 AM
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