The UN-supported plan to expand Haiti’s garment industry is unpopular among many grassroots organisations in the country. Rather than creating low wage jobs and export-driven development, sustainable reconstruction must be rooted in Haitian reality, writes David L. Wilson.
6th March 2010 – Published by MRZine
Within days of a January 12 earthquake that devastated much of southern Haiti, the New York Times was using the disaster to promote a United Nations plan for drastically expanding the country’s garment assembly industry, which employs low-paid workers to stitch apparel for duty-free export, mainly to the U.S. market. This, according to several opinion pieces in the Times, is the way to rebuild Haiti.
The outlines of the plan were drawn up a year earlier, in January 2009, by Oxford economist Paul Collier, but the leading proponents of development through sweatshops have been liberal Democrats in the United States. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus pushed hard for HOPE and HOPE II, the 2006 Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act and its 2008 extension; these acts make the plan possible by giving preferential treatment to U.S. imports of apparel assembled in Haiti. UN Special Envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton, the former U.S. president, has provided much of the PR for the plan; in the fall of 2009 he organized a special meeting to encourage foreign business investment in Haiti. Liberal U.S. financier and philanthropist George Soros is helping build a new $45 million industrial park near Port-au-Prince’s impoverished Cité Soleil neighborhood as part of the plan’s implementation.
Adding to the project’s liberal credentials, in August 2009 Bill Clinton made Dr. Paul Farmer his deputy UN special envoy. Harvard professor Farmer is widely respected for his medical work in Haiti; he is a founder of Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante and is on the board of directors of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a US-based left-liberal advocacy group.
Go to full article.