On Tuesday, October 12 at 4:30 PM, Dr. Saidel Laine, a medical doctor who is currently running for President of Haiti, spoke at IWP.
Dr. Laine was invited to speak by IWP board member Frank Ryan. Mr. Ryan, a retired United States Marine, was called to Afghanistan to help develop and plan for economic recovery and growth. He is working with Dr. Laine to apply a similar plan for economic growth in Haiti.
Mr. Ryan introduced Dr. Laine, explaining his background in medicine and humanitarian work in Haiti, but more importantly his integrity and unwillingness to use his position for personal gain.
Dr. Laine described some of Haiti's recent history, including the dictatorship of Duvalier in the 1980s, the "4H" AIDS classification of Haiti in 1982, the controversial elections under President Preval in the late 1990s and in 2000, the tropical storms that devastated Haiti in September 2008, the struggling UN mission in the nation, and the deadly earthquake in January 2010. Right now, there are many problems, including controversy over the electoral process, as well as the fact that Haiti still has over a million refugees living in flimsy tents.
He also described some of the root causes of the sustained crisis in Haiti. Dr. Laine described that Haiti had a rough start, as their strategy to win their fight of independence from Napoleon involved burning everything in their country. Although they won, this strategy left Haiti burned down and the economy in terrible condition. Since then, for various reasons, Haiti never really got started as a stable country. The country has always been plagued by political instability and widespread corruption. In addition, from the 1960s onwards, professionals started leaving Haiti to go to other countries for better training and a better economic situation.
Dr. Laine also explained the wide extent of current problems in Haiti. On the political level, the country's leaders in government mainly work to keep their power, and not in their nation's interest. After the earthquake, Haiti essentially had no leadership for three days.
Dr. Laine suggested that the UN mission in Haiti needs a true exit strategy, as the US does in Iraq. He also suggested that the many political parties in Haiti join together and form two or three main parties to allow the political system to function more effectively. He also explained that Haiti needs to increase its preparedness in case another earthquake occurs.
Questions were about what is being done to support private sector development in Haiti, what competitive advantage exists in Haiti, what threat do desperate refugees in dire conditions pose for the nation, what the situation is with registration and titling of private property in Haiti, what taxes exist in Haiti, how the IMF and World Bank are helping Haiti, and how crisis money is dispersed.