Thursday, September 15, 2016

Haiti Open for Plunder: Neocolonialism in Haiti

Some things never seem to change. The manner in which multinationals plunder the resource wealth of third world countries and exploit their populace for cheap labor, enabled by institutions like the IMF and World Bank as well as Washington, is not much different from the colonialism that predominated Herbert Spencer’s time. The only difference is that it is now done under the pretense of ‘humanitarianism', a phony ideology cooked up in executive board rooms to justify egregious violation of moral law; it is the tired tactic of bypassing people’s rational faculties (lateral prefrontal cortex) by appealing to their passions (amygdala). Behind every self-proclaimed philanthropist is an ulterior motive, hidden from public view by the media’s omission. A more startling example of this could not be found outside of Haiti, which for the last century has persisted under the iron fist of Washington, and especially in the after math of the 2010 earth quake. 

Out of the billions spent on the recovery effort, most of the funding went to for-profit U.S. contractors, U.S. NGOs, and foreign multinationals. The state department awarded the vast majority of rebuilding contracts to American instead of Haitian contractors and Washington spent $156,380,000 on development of Caracol Industrial Park and another $170,300,000 on its power plant and port, a quarter of the USAID budget for disaster recovery. The plan to build a venue for foreign manufacturers, especially textile and garment contractors, had been conceived well before the earth quake.

The World Bank, that bastion of neoliberal orthodoxy, along with the Inter-American Development Bank and a few Haitian officials rewrote Haitian mining laws, in a closed door meeting, to make extraction more convenient and cheaper. Specifically, they waived the requirement to have a mining convention ratified by parliament, privatized Haitian subsoils (previously considered the state’s domain) and removed environmental protections.

Canadian mining company Eurasian minerals has a license to 1,770 square kilometers or about 1/3 of Haiti’s North.

Another Canadian company, Majescor, and a small U.S. company, VCS Mining, and their subsidiaries have licenses or conventions for tracts totaling over 750 square kilometers.

Altogether, about 15 percent of Haiti’s territory is under license to North American mining firms and its partners. The price for being handed the privilege of controlling Haiti’s gold mining industry and 15% of its land is a paltry 2.5% royalty rate.

Before the industrial park was built, some 720 farm workers were evicted from their land, an aggregate of 246 hectares, without due process and only a pittance in compensation for lost wages. Evicting hundreds of farm workers to make room for the industrial park not only had the immediate effect of depriving them of both their present and future earnings, it also raised food prices in Caracol by making them more dependent on food imports, for which they already depend on for 50% of their food, and put downward pressure on all wages by lowering the margin of production, effectively creating conditions not far removed form their pre 1804 circumstances. To further elaborate on the last point, I’d like to bring to the readers attention that there is a very good reason why USAID, the State Department, and the World Bank, among other criminal enterprises, did not choose to build the industrial park on land devastated by the 2010 earthquake or any other less valuable site: two words, cheaper labor.

Cinic Antoine Iréné, a farmer who lost his land when the Caracol Industrial Park was constructed, said:“The land at Caracol was used for food production for all the North East – plantain and other food. They’ve taken these lands and put concrete on them. The industrial park is the biggest injustice done to the North East because they could have chosen other, less productive places”.

What this farmer does not understand is that by monopolizing all of the valuable land in Haiti, which includes the 15% licensed to mining companies, foreign corporations reduce the margin of production, the wages Haitians could earn working on rent free land. By the law of rent, wages are determined by the productive capacity of free land, and thus the margin of production is the floor for wages. The intended consequence of monopolizing the most valuable land is to reduce the bargaining power of labor, and thus wages. And despite what the Inter-American Development Bank and USAID have said about 65,000 jobs, the foreign manufacturers will eventually leave when wages rise and they find cheaper labor elsewhere, as they have historically done.

Evicting farmers from their land, agricultural dumping and allowing foreign companies to monopolize the most valuable land had the intended effect that anyone could have foreseen: higher food prices and lower wages for industrial workers. And that is exactly what unfolded, the current wage is $0.64 per hour ($5 per day), most of which is depleted by the cost of transportation and food. But even this low wage floor had to be mandated by Haiti's parliament, a mandate that USAID and then secretary of state Clinton fiercely opposed in favor of a much smaller increment of $0.31 per hour.  Add to these atrocities the fact that Haiti is currently under the foreign military occupation of 10,000 UN 'peacekeepers', keeping the 'peace' through rape and disease, one finds a frightening resemblance to the bygone era of European colonialism.


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