The Steady-State Initiative
moving toward sustainability through economic reform
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2010 Jan 27
Most certainly, we do not want to trivialize the crisis and human tragedy unfolding in Haiti. It is also important to acquaint ourselves with the baggage and burden that the people of Haiti have to carry and are still carrying throughout the history and politics of this island nation. Without dwelling on the past, let us look into what lies ahead for Haiti.
All the generous outpouring of financial aid to Haiti is very honorable. But where will all of this aid money go? What few persons are able to see and understand is the dichotomy of economics. On the one hand, economics is about moving currency around, what David Korten, author of Agenda for a New Economy calls the phantom economy. On the other hand, the real economy is about how we share in mutual provision with our fellow human being.
What Haiti needs now is much more than money. Haiti needs desperately, immediately and for the months and years ahead, food, water, medical supplies and housing. In the medium term, Haiti needs to rebuild its social and economic infrastructure.
Aid organizations and NGOs will ask you to donate cash, not food and clothing. They will claim that it is easier to spend the money where it is most urgently needed. Think about it. Haiti has little economic or productivity infrastructure. All donations will have to be spent purchasing foreign goods and services. Millions of dollars in donations will go back to benefit the donor countries and their corporate conglomerates in the food, drug and military industry. This does very little to bring prosperity to the Haitian people.
We have heard the adage: Feed a man fish and he feeds for a day. Teach him how to fish and he feeds for a lifetime. This saying applies more so now than ever before.
After tending to the immediate humanitarian needs, we need to help the Haitian
people grow their own crops, rebuild their homes with local materials, and become
a self-reliant, resilient and sustainable society. If we fail to do this, Haiti
will remain an orphan nation and a sweatshop of cheap labour for western enterprise.