julius bergmann | 09.10.2004 10:40
While normal Haitians attempt to cope with the after effects of the February violence, the removal of President Aristide and the summer hurricanes, the Haitian business community continue to push Haiti as the perfect outsourcing base. And why not; situated just of the Florida coast Haiti offers American companies almost unlimited benfits with minimal beurocratic formalities. At the Electrical Manufacturers’ Expo in Indianapolis in September Rudolf and Reginal Boulos continued the drum beating for Ouanaminthe. Family Boulos are a prominent Haitian family, well known for their links to right wing groups and founders of the Haitian Democracy Project (sic) Rudolph Boulos was also indited in the murder of Haitian journalist Jean Dominique, who had pursued the businessman over the death of at least 60 children who had taken a "cough medicine" produced by Boulos. No charges ever followed his questioning.
During their presentation, (available at http://haitipolicy.org/Electrical_files/frame.htm) family Boulos extoll the virtues of Ouanaminthe. Without aparrent sarcasim or irony they push amongt other advantages, the;
"Competitvely priced workforce"; Haitian laborors are paid considerably less than the Dominican workers at the plant.
"Immediate turnaround" the harsh reality of the International textile market is short delivery times and high pressure to meet tight dealines.
"Two countries = added advantage"; the labels on the finished products read "Made in Haiti, Finished in the Dominican Republic", and so circumnavigate quota limits.
"Minimum Daily wage in Haiti:$1.62. Benefits also slightly lower" Although the Haitain workers get around $1.90 per day, it still represents a pitiful return for a days work on a product that will eventually sell for much, much more. However such are the margins and presures in the international textile trade, that a few cents saved on the workers can make the diffence between losing and keeping an order.
"Excellent labour relations"; unless the labour happen to be a member of a trade union, Haitian, question management practices, show initiative or upset the Dominican soldiers guarding the complex.
All the claims and promises made in the presentation, including the conclusion that costs can be kept down through the combination "cheap labour - tax exemptions - low transportation costs", are eerily similar to those made in the 1997 "Guide to investing in Haiti". Publishd by the Manufacturers Association of Haiti (ADIH), the section "Good Reasons to Invest in Haiti" includes;
"Minimal intervention by the State in the market: Government regulated prices are reduced for five products and services including: oil, energy, telecommunications, transportation, and the minimum wage."
The Boulos presentation ends with the "Key Benefits":
"Decisive cost management in a price dominated market"
"Capicity to devlop and produce in record time from order to supply"
These are what the industrialists want.
What the majority of Haitians want is the ability to be self sufficient in terms of staple foodstuffs, something they could lay claim to before the privitisations of the mid 90s military regime undermined domestic production to the benefit of subsidised US imports and a situation that wont be achievable when high quality agricultural land is concreted over to build clothes production factories.
They want access to education, something which will become even harder when qualified teachers have to take jobs stiching jeans becuse there is no education budget for wages, books or buildings and anyway the official language of education is French, spoken by 7% of the population rather than the Creole spoken by the overwhelming majority of Haitians.
They want the right to self determination, something they will never have so long as the forces of international capital continue to excert a dominating force over their country.
Next to a picture a smiling Haitian worker stands the claim;
"A win-win sitaution: Haiti gets jobs, investors compete"
Haiti gets real foreign investment, jobs where humane conditions prevail and a chance to build a secure fututre for itself and its population would no doubt increase the smile on not only her face, but also those of all her collegues and countrymen.