The Haitian Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
Attached is the Haitian Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. Within it, the Haitian Government has set priorities and identified steps that need to be taken to make progress against poverty. This document provides the framework that allows international partners to calibrate their programming in order to synchronize their efforts with the government. Any plan worth its weight in paper must be ambitious, flexible, and achievable. Let's take a look at the document and see if it holds up.
The document contains five sections. First, is an assessment of poverty and inequality based on recent surveys. The second outlines the vision of state and non state actors as well as challenges to be met by 2015. Third is a summary of major areas of work prioritized by the Haitian government at the July 25, 2006 International conference - growth, human development, and democratic governance. The fourth concerns the macroeconomic framework and policies. The final section concerns the financing, implementation and monitoring of the strategy.
The strategy is descriptive, providing much information on the current state of Haiti and how it came to be so poor. For example, Haiti regressed on the human development index from 146th in 2000 to 153rd in 2005. But we know the extent of poverty in Haiti - what most of us want to know is what should be done to reverse poverty in Haiti and what is the role of the Government?
According to the strategy, the emphasis through 2009 will be on agriculture, infastructure, and electricity. The cost of the strategy for the period betwen 2007-2010 is 3.7 billion dollars.
I take issue with certain parts of this strategy. It states that Haiti's system of values contribute to its poverty. Certainly, the "system of values" in other countries have also contributed to Haiti's current state of affairs. Do issues such as dependency complicate development in Haiti? Sure, but that also has a lot to do with the "system of values" of the development community and year after year of poorly thought our projects that did not include, and ultimately disempowered Haitians. Haitians have cultural traits which can be seen as negative or positive, depending on the context - same as the United States or any other country.
The strategy obviously views tourism as a growth industry for many parts of Haiti. Tourism can bring in much needed revenue but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. It is disappoing that more attention is devoted to tourism than environmental degradation. Until we can address environmental degradation, the stagnant agricultural sector, and address food insecurity, major gains in tourism are a long term objective.
The strategy stresses environmentally friendly agriculture, facilitating access to land and addressing the absentee landlord phenomena (how?) and making working the land more secure through reparcelling. The root issues (pun intended) of agricultural decline are thorny and complicated. The strategy does not provide the needed level of detail here.
Not to sound like a broken record, but I really had hoped to see a comprehensive approach to addressing environmental degradation in this report. In many ways, the overall success of this strategy depends on being able to do so. There are many things that can be done, but what should be done where, to what extent, with whom and for how much and how long?
The report nots a lack of progress in the health sector. Access to clean water, sanitation, and basic health services remain poor. The bright spot is progress made against HIV. Haiti has done a great job here and other countries have taken note. However, it still has the highest prevalance rate in the Caribbean. Why are these health indicators so poor? One reason is that as the environment degrades, people are eating less, their immune systems are weakened, and they are more likely to become ill in communities that may or not have basic health services available. The high cost of gas limits transportation options. If you give birth at night in a rural community with no clinic available, you are likely on your own no matter what the complications. The strategy notes more needs to be done to reduce maternal mortality. It notes the government intends to replace the agencies currently responsible for water provision which has been a long time coming. Under the current system, the poor perversely pay more for their water than others.
The strategy is by no means perfect. It glosses over key areas and, while it states how much money is needed to achieve certain objectives, it does not specify on what the money will be spent. Maybe that infomation is available elsewhere but any donor worth their salt would want a breakdown. Despite its problems, though, it is a good effort that is a long time coming. Take a look at the sections that are of particular interest to you. We would welcome your thoughts and feedback on its strengths and weaknesses.