From Volume 37, Issue 30 of EIR Online, Published Aug. 6, 2010

Ibero-American News Digest

Congressmen Told: Model Haiti Reconstruction on FDR's Policies

July 29 (EIRNS)—Franklin Delano Roosevelt's policies, which put millions back to work during the Great Depression, should be the model for rebuilding Haiti, said Dr. Paul Farmer, speaking before the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on July 27. "We need a sense of urgency" to get this done, he warned, because what's been done so far isn't working. He slammed the free-trade and globalization policies that helped to destroy Haiti long before the January earthquake.

Farmer, physician and founder of Partners in Health (PIH), is also a UN Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti, who works closely with former President Bill Clinton. Until now, only Lyndon LaRouche had called for an FDR-style mobilization to ensure Haiti's national survival. The reference to FDR is appropriate, given the latter's deep concern for Haiti and efforts to assist in its development, seen in the Good Neighbor Policy's promotion of the Artibonite Valley Agriculture Project for flood control and power provision, including plans to build the Peligre hydroelectric dam project.

Farmer told the CBC's "Focus on Haiti" hearing that if Haiti is to survive, assistance must be directed toward strengthening the Haitian government and "public-sector capacity, especially in the arenas of health, education, water, and housing...." This, he noted wryly, hasn't been the "favored approach," historically, toward assistance to Haiti. But now, he said, more aid money must be put into the government's hands—less than 2% of the $1.8 billion in earthquake relief sent so far to Haiti has gone to the government—to strengthen the public sector, "including its regulatory and coordinating capacity." The "veritable Republic of NGOs" now existing in the country has "failed to provide basic services to all who need them or to create a functioning safety net for the poorest."

If Haiti is to have a real, sustainable health-care system, Farmer pointed out, there must be "massive investment in new clinics and hospitals, staff to run them, and health insurance at a time when only 300,000 families have it. These are indivisible tasks. As FDR noted at the outset of the Depression: 'Public Health ... is a responsibility of the state as [is] the duty to promote general welfare. The state educates its children. Why not keep them well?' "

For Haiti, Farmer warned, "the most urgent task of all is the creation of jobs that will confer dignity to those in greatest need. As FDR said early in the Depression, 'The Nation asks for action and action now. Our greatest primary task is to put people to work.' As it was during the Great Depression, there are innumerable public-works jobs imaginable, from reforestation and rubble removal to preparing for back-to-school (la rentrée), which must put kids back in schools, safe schools...."

Farmer recalled that Roosevelt, as Governor of New York, devised programs that put people back to work, lessons that were later "taken to scale in many programs, including the Civil Works Administration, which created millions of jobs and moved billions [of dollars] into the public sector through public works and into the hands of the previously unemployed." Certainly, Farmer underscored, "Haiti's need is no less great than that faced by the States during the Depression." Moreover, he concluded, "there is no evidence whatsoever that this is an impossible mission."

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