Features

Not enough dough

"Not enough dough" Continued...

Issue: "Food fight," May 3, 2008

But progress is slow. The lack of tax revenue to fund state maintenance of infrastructure discourages businesses from significant investment in the country. The resultant languishing economy spurs political instability, further poisoning the business climate. That destructive cycle appears unbreakable without considerable outside intervention, an assumption that inspired the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The stated goal of MINUSTAH: "to put an end to impunity."

Dubois is not so sure it can: "One could imagine that international assistance and aid and the construction of infrastructure could be very useful and might even seem essential. But the legacy of the projects that have been carried out is very mixed. Some people will tell you that external pressures and forces have always in the end been a disadvantage for Haiti and that an internal solution is the only good solution. Other people will tell you that given the lack of resources there needs to be some sustained outside investment to help build infrastructure. It's hard to know."

Among the proposed internal solutions: ethanol production, an idea steeped in irony given the current food shortage. That Haiti was once among the world's foremost sugar producers gave some prognosticators hope that the struggling nation could ride the recent surge in ethanol demand to economic autonomy. Turns out, ethanol is more villain than savior. Government subsidies and mandates for the alternative fuel throughout Europe and the United States have displaced food crops and contributed significantly to the worldwide hunger crisis (see "Feed My people").

Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, author of the book The Really Inconvenient Truths (Regnery, 2008), disparages the ethanol industry as a losing proposition propped up by governments in response to climate change alarmism: "Once seen as a political sweetheart deal, government mandating use of ethanol in gasoline and subsidizing its production became a vital component in the fight against global warming. Yet all the world's various biofuels laws have done is to force industries to burn food as fuel. This has precipitated food shortages and massive increases in food prices around the world."

But even if Haiti's 9 million people determined that the economic benefit of producing ethanol outweighed its detrimental impacts, widespread environmental degradation of the country's soil would limit crop yields as it has with rice. Haiti's best hope for economic turnaround may lie in a sort of mix of external and internal aid-namely, the return of a large and wealthy Haitian diaspora to reinvest in the land that birthed them.

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