Haiti Archives 1995-1996
30/10/95 U.S.-HAITI: U.S. withholds aid over privatisation flap by Yvette Collymore

Copyright 1995 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (IPS) – Washington admits it is withholding promised assistance to Haiti because the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has failed to meet conditions laid out by the Bill Clinton administration.

The main source of this country’s foreign assistance — the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — acknowledges that the administration is holding up the final 4.6 million dollars of an Emergency Balance of Payments Support Programme, because Haiti has failed to hold up its part of the bargain.

Admitting that the money is being held up, a source at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) told IPS, ‘’There are certain conditions waiting to be completed.’’

This admission follows repeated denials by State Department and USAID officials that the Clinton administration was twisting the Haitian government’s arms to carry out reforms supported by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other creditors.

USAID officials had insisted just two weeks ago that any monetary balance-of-payments support promised by Washington was tied up in the fiscal 1996 aid budget request which is still before the U.S. Congress.

The money, however, is part of a larger 45-million-dollar package, disbursement of which should have been completed by Sep. 30, the end of the U.S. fiscal year. But as far as the U.S. administration is concerned, Haiti has failed to show adequate commitment to moving forward on civil service reforms and on privatisation of key state enterprises.

‘’We’re still waiting for them to approve a scope of work for broad civil service reform and to prepare options for a second round of privatisations,’’ the USAID official said.

Even before his return from a three-year exile after the U.S.- led military intervention a year ago, Aristide had undertaken to push through a liberalisation programme at the behest of its international donors who say the sale of state enterprises and civil service reforms are key to Haiti’s economic growth.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the arm of the World Bank Group in charge of privatisations, has completed studies for nine state companies, including the telephone and electricity systems, the flour mill, cement plant, and the seaport and airport in Port-au-Prince.

Bids have been requested for the flour mill and cement plant, but USAID says the Aristide government should be moving to place the seaport and airport under private management contract as well.

Popular protests have in the meantime erupted in Haiti, with the Aristide government now apparently reluctant to go ahead with the reforms. So vehement has been the resistance that Prime Minister Smarck Michel resigned more than two weeks ago, complaining he was not getting enough support to carry forward the agreement.

His position is now being filled by Foreign Minister Claudette Werleigh who may be more attuned to the appeals at the grassroots than Michel, widely is seen as a member of the business elite and a favourite of Washington.

Non-governmental organisations both in Haiti and abroad complain that the reforms being advocated by the United States and the international financial institutions would only result in lay- offs and further hardship for Haiti, whose per capita income of 225 dollars makes it the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

According to the Haitian Human Rights Platform, a coalition of nine groups, structural adjustment would have dire consequences.

‘’Haitian’s social and economic rights are still not respected’’ even as poverty has intensified, Franck Desir, treasurer of Human Rights Platform said here last week.

USAID extended two million dollars to the IFC for analyses of the nine state companies. The IFC produced what it calls ‘information memoranda’ by August this year.

But the U.S. publication, Multinational Monitor, which has obtained copies of the memoranda, says that limitations and contradictions contained in the documents suggest that the Haitian population had reason to question the privatisation plans.

It says that while the IFC sent the documents to potential investors, it failed to distribute them to Haitian media, despite the plan’s policy of encouraging broad public participation in the privatisation process.

‘’The process should be open to public scrutiny, possibly through an awareness campaign and open debates,’’ the Monitor quotes the cement plant report as saying. And the assessment on the Port Authority says that if the ‘’rationalisation of the labour forces’’ at the port is to succeed, ‘’the government must achieve both popular grassroots support and political consensus.’’

The confidential status of the documents relating to Haitian reforms at the World Bank and the IMF frustrated non-governmental groups who came to Washington from Haiti for the express purpose of gathering information on financial agreements involving the Port-au-Prince government.

According to the NGOs, the only document they were able to acquire was a listing of World Bank projects in Haiti. (END/IPS/YJC/JL/95)

Origin: Washington/U.S.-HAITI/ ----

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