Haiti Archives 1995-1996
09/11/95 U.S.-HAITI: U.S. Confirms It is Withholding Aid over Structural Reforms

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

WASHINGTON, Nov 9 (IPS) – For the first time, the United States admitted publicly here Thursday that 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.

State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns told reporters that 4.5 million dollars of a larger 45-million-dollar balance-of- payments package would not be disbursed until ‘’several conditions’’ were met by the Aristide government.

He said these included ‘’various financial sector reforms, civil service reforms, and plans for privatisation of state monopolies.’’ He added that these measures had been promised by Aristide before he was returned by U.S.-led U.N. forces from a three-year exile 13 months ago.

‘’We are encouraging the Haitian government to fulfill its commitments to the international community to meet these conditions so that we can be forthcoming with the remaining undisbursed funds from our (1995 aid) account.’’

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) here were quick to denounce the State Department’s decision, which was reported by IPS last month.

‘’The U.S. says it wants democracy in Haiti, yet it is acting to undercut a very fragile democratic process in that country,’’ said Lydia Williams of Oxfam America.

‘’Major economic reform would not take place in the United States without Congress getting involved, but that’s what our government wants Haiti to do,’’ she added.

She pointed out that the economic reform package has only just been submitted to the new parliament which was elected just last month. The programme had been adopted by Prime Minister Smarck Michel who stepped down last month after Aristide himself declined to come out forcefully in favour of the reforms.

Since then, Aristide has named Claudette Werleigh as Michel’s successor. The choice has cast doubt here on whether her government is as committed to economic reforms as Michel, a wealthy businessman.

It is not only this year’s last tranche of U.S. balance-of- payments support that may be at stake. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have also pledged themselves to provide tens of millions of dollars in loans on condition that a structural adjustment programme be implemented.

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali warned that a failure by Haiti to conclude an agreement with the IMF could mean not only a hold-up in badly needed funds, but also a delay in the scheduled transition departure of the U.N. mission in Haiti early next year.

That eventuality would be strongly opposed to the Clinton administration which has repeatedly promised to withdraw its forces — which make up more than half of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti — no later than the end of February.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which controls virtually all of Washington’s aid programme in Haiti, the World Bank, and the IMF all insist that the reforms are necessary to kickstart the economy and promote competition and investment.

But many Haitians — and, it appears, many new parliamentarians, are sceptical, especially when it comes to privatising key industries. For one thing, the parliament reportedly wants to put into effect anti-monopoly laws before the privatisation process gets underway.

In a recent letter to USAID Administrator Brian Atwood, more than 40 U.S. NGOS argued that Haitians should be permitted to reform their economy at their own pace.

‘’They may call it ‘good governance,’ but they are still telling the Haitian government how to organise their economy without allowing the will of the Haitian people to be expressed through their parliament,’’ said Lisa McGowan of the Development Group for Alternative Policies (DGAP).

‘’USAID promised it would not condition aid on the implementation of economic ‘structural adjustment’ measures, but that is exactly what they are doing,’’ she added. ‘’They are insisting on a number of measures, including privatisation, the reduction of the state payroll, and the removal of interest-rate ceilings, which will result in credit being taken further out of the reach of small farmers and entrepreneurs.’’

Burns stressed that most U.S. aid was continuing to flow to Haiti. He said it includes assistance to train and deploy a new police force, to reform the judicial system and to complete the electoral process which culminates in balloting for Aristide’s successor next month.

Other aid which continues, he said, are for health care and feeding programmes, and for environmental and education projects.

Altogether, western donors and international agencies have pledged about 1.2 billion dollars in aid and loans for Haiti over the five years beginning with Aristide’s restoration in Oct, 1994. Of the total, Washington has pledged almost half, with about 200 million dollars to have been spent over the past year.(END/IPS/JL/95)

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

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