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25741: De Verteuil (reply to 25719: Lemieux: ) Aristide in Exile: Our Times (ca) columnist Naomi Klein (fwd)
From Patrick de Verteuil Ðpdeverteuil@yahoo.comð
Privatization, privatization, privatization!
We should lay to rest the myth that the International Community's demand -
which Aristide accepted and then reneged on - was designed to transfer
valuable properties to foreign or local capitalists.
1.) We should talk of reprivatization, not privatization, as nearly all the
enterprises had started life as private corporations and been nationalized
at a later date.
2.) With the sole exception of the Telephone company they were all bankrupt
loss producers and not assets. The phone company was worth something as it
was able to collect in hard currency, at outlandish rates, for the collect
calls from the US and Canada. Aristide and Haiti could have sold the company
for more than its physical assets were worth but Internet competition has
changed all that.
Haiti is, and has been in the past, a badly managed state. It was always an
illusion to believe that it could profitably manage commercial enterprises.
Let me give one example: In order to build my house, here in Abricots,
thirty years ago I needed 600 sacs of cement. I sent a boat to the factory
dock and, including a supplement for five-ply bags for the expected rough
handling I paid $1.28 per sac. I am a ham radio operator and over the next
few months checked around the Caribbean. I was unable to find cheaper cement
Ciment d'Haiti was a subsidiary of the world largest cement manufacturer
"Ciment Lafarge". It paid taxes here in addition to a commission to "La
Régie du Tabac" a catch all Government/Duvalier bagman. It employed ten
Frenchmen and 150 Haitians. The company was nationalized approx 1980.
One reason why Haiti is so difficult to govern is that there are so few
private sector jobs (where incidentally work and competence are demanded).
Even with gross overstaffing the government of the moment cannot employ more
than a small proportion of those (all who can read and write) who consider
themselves entitled to a job. This is a recipe for unending political
instability as the opposition (jobless) will always outnumber the
pro-government forces. One short term solution is nationalization. This
permits you to create endless "jobs for the boys".
Ciment d'Haiti went from a profit oriented 160 man organization to a
politically oriented one with, at its death 3000 employees. Naturally it
paid no taxes but was continually bailed out by government cash infusions.
Cement went from my US$1.28 to over US$7. From the least to the most
expensive in the Caribbean. There are of course many more consumers of
cement than the company had employees. When the company closed, the plant
was no longer functional and was not even worth the proverbial $1.