Excerpt from a Trinidad & Tobago Review Column, Sept. 2012
By Myriam Chancy
Who has never dreamed? Of a desired object, person, or state of being? Who has never dreamed? Who has never dared to dream?…
…In a parallel world, not so far away, in bustling Port-au-Prince, contrary to recent reports that four and five star hotels were in the planning stages, multi-room, state-of-the-art structures already rise into the sky in Pétion-Ville and downtown. Those I’m shown will house a Best Western and a Royal Oasis hotel, chains originating in the US and Mexico respectively. A Marriot is also planned and the Montana is being steadily rebuilt on the same site, a small memorial to the dead having been erected to the immediate right of the parking lot as one arrives at its base, a vast hole with a lone palm below where a complex of stores used to sit below. The size of these hotels suggests that an influx of large numbers of visitors to Haiti, moneyed visitors, is expected in the years to come. In general, that there is a building boom in the tourist industry might be a positive turn for the economy but it does not explain how there are funds for these yet uninhabited buildings and no funds for housing for the regular Haitian, almost half a million of whom, earthquake victims remain under tents.
A new governmental agency, L’Unité de Construction de Logements et de Bâtiments, is largely responsible for the relocation of IDPs from camps and though the numbers have dwindled from the 1.7 million of a year ago, it is not clear that the “16/6” plan by which IDPs were to be relocated to 16 housing developments or paid a flat, one-time, annual fee of $500 US dollars to supplement the purchase of land, new housing on already owned land, or the cost of rental housing has resulted in secure housing for those that have chose relocation while others were forcibly evicted from the camps.
The housing developments announced have not been built and there is, in fact, a campaign underway to secure fair housing for all Haitians regardless of their class status, called the “Under Tents campaign” formed to encourage the “Government of Haiti, with the support of its allies and donor governments in the U.S., Canada, and Europe [to] move quickly to: (1) designate land for housing; (2) create one centralized government housing institution to coordinate and implement a social housing plan; and (3) solicit and allocate funding to realize this plan”
To support the campaign and sign the petition, go to: http://undertentshaiti.com/.
It may surprise you to learn that not only private investors are supporting the booming hotel business in Port-au-Prince. In July 2012, AP reports surfaced revealing that the Clinton/Bush Initiative has invested 2 million US dollars into the building of the Royal Oasis and that the Red Cross/Red Crescent has utilized 10.5 million US dollars of their reconstruction funds to purchase a parcel of land in a slum area (where people are currently living) in order to build a luxury hotel (www.youphil.com/fr ). Luxury hotels to “eco-tourist” schemes such as mountain biking races and trails (see http://mtbayiti.org/about/), are currently in development, and, though some, like the latter, are well-meaning, they fail to adequately ascertain local impact or include the least wealthy Haitians in their plans.
This is trickle-down economics at its best yet those involved in these enterprises do not seem to have learned much from the current global economic meltdown, clinging as they are to the delusion that capitalist expansion will somehow “save” Haiti. Tourist schemes, along with massive factories like the Caracol Industrial Park, only recently reported upon but being implemented since shortly after the earthquake in the North Coast zone between Cap-Haitien and Fort Liberté, are the plan for Haiti’s future with little regard for essentials needed in the present by the poorest of the poor and those struggling for a better quality of life…
“Building capacity,” is a term I’ve heard a great deal lately. It’s used in the NGO world to describe the building of skills set among local populations who may not have had any previous training in a given field. But building capacity must mean, in Haiti as elsewhere, doing more than creating what Kincaid called, in the case of Antigua, “good servants,” or base labor. It must mean building (on) the capacity for self-awareness, cultural preservation, political efficacy and a world in which to dream becomes not only possible but expected, a reality in which the dream might, someday, become reality. A reality in which a little girl once singing against hunger pangs hidden by the side of a winding river, might become a voice of her people, shaking awake dreams in all who hear their story in the threads of her song, for a future Haiti, not dreamless, but kanpé, standing strong.
Read the full article here