Over the past several decades people continue to promote a “Taiwan Model” for Haiti that emphasizes the development of an assembly economy. However, there are features of several of the so-called miracle economies of Asia that are less often stressed, and very often completely ignored, by promoters of industry in P-a-P. As far as I can tell success in Japan*, Korea, and Taiwan shared these important factors (each followed by a quick set of thoughts):
- A strong central state. Donors and Haitians will not let Haiti develop, nor should it, a state as centralized and authoritarian as those the Tigers had in the mid-20th century. Nonetheless, the government of Haiti (GOH) will need to take some very strong steps that should have been taken decades ago, but only now might conditions allow it to take, such as dramatic reform of land ownership and laws in the country. International donors are going to need to support the GOH when this causes conflict and help fund appropriate compensation for the losers in any of these reforms (all reforms create losers, compensation should be generous but not cause delays).
In addition, a stronger state than Haiti has ever had will be necessary to help stem corruption. This will seem paradoxical to many pundits and, sadly, many analysts. Too often the existence of corruption in the GOH causes donors to avoid the state; instead, the state has to be fully engaged and that means substantial growth in size as well as in skills and resources. For instance, some progress has been made in reforming the police, but I am told it is only half the size it needs to be. Likewise, governments at all levels need to be able to attract well-trained Haitians into public service throughout the nation. More training and more programs (including a vibrant school of public service that offers short courses, programs in the countryside, and full-fledge degree programs) need to be developed for state employees, elected officials, and indigenous NGO leadership from the ground up. Training programs that Haitian NGOs already have need to be funded to go to scale (i.e., talented part-time low-income animators and leaders need to be funded to take their skills on the road).
- Free, universal, and (often) compulsory education. One of the great crimes of the isolation of Haiti after its revolution was that the Catholic Church (largely) pulled out and Haiti was denied the central role the Church played in the development of education in so many nations. In the Tigers (and Japan), the centralized states (often with help from the US) pushed through universal education. Has US AID even done this in Haiti? Getting as many kids into school as possible should be a major thrust of relief. It provides kids a safe place to get fed, helps build the future, and puts money into a variety of markets (food, construction, etc.). Funding and training youth to be new teachers should be a major part of a jobs campaign in the nation. (Schools are also something that foreign private donors and volunteers can appropriately help (as opposed to more complex projects like orphanages that require special training and a different kind of commitment) and connect to personally to form long-lasting funding relationships.)
[Side note: There was to be a major push for adult literacy in Haiti by the Church after the dechoukaj (the “uprooting” of the Duvalier dictatorship), but even after all the training books were published it was squashed because some powerful actors viewed its connections to Paolo Freire’s pedagogy to be “marxist".” I have one of the training books, called Goute Sel, that I should post about some day. The name “taste of salt” comes from the belief that a zonbi can awaken from their fate by tasting salt.]
- Significant land reform (which also occurred in Japan during in US). As discussed above this will bring about conflict and more than hard feelings. Not only will land reform be necessary for moving displaced persons, but also for reconstruction. Moreover, many land disputes that were dormant may come back as land is cleared (i.e., people resigned to another’s possession may feel that a cleared lot is the right time to reassert their rights).
- Subsidies for farm production. To do this day developed nations have very complex and often heated politics (sometimes involving massive protests) surrounding farm subsidies. A lot could be said about this, but I confess I know less about it than I would like. How should Haiti do subsidize small farmers? What are the pros and cons?
- Tariffs on food imports. Same as above. An issue made trickier by the food relief and food-for-work projects in Haiti.
- “Harmonious” labor-management relations. Relationships that could be seen as “corporatist” developed in many nations after WWII, not just those in Asia. Each took its own path, but the need for labor to organize and elite classes to settle for a more planned economy and a healthy tax system is necessary. Interestingly, the exact tax system that developed in many nations after WWII varied significantly and some decisions may shock people that wish to look at taxes through this or that ideological lens. For instance, some social democratic governments promoted development with very low taxes on capital gains.
(Note: Corporatist relations are not well understood by US commentators, the term and concepts are just to foreign it seems; perhaps academics are to blame by not developing better language to distinguish the various uses of the term and various kinds of state-labor-capitalist relationship that fit under this tem)
- Property rights. It is popular for conservatives to promote the need for clear and less litigious systems for dealing with property in developing nations. This is right, but it should not be twisted to ignore the need for taxes, regulations, and programs that increase access of the poor to property in the first place. Many people that promote markets forget just how extensively government action makes health markets possible. A lot more needs to be said about this.
- Exports instead of import substitution. How this emphasis goes hand-in-hand with protectionism for agriculture, I do no know, but it seems that there is no denying that if we want to prevent (for now at least) the continued migration into the cities and impoverishment of workers in some trades, that some import substitution is desirable, even if “un-natural” for free marketeers, for now.
Obviously, more on all this needs to be said. I need to dig out some old readings, or invest time in reading what appear to be relevant works by Ha-Joon Chang. Paul Collier’s paper of a year ago is also on my list, but I do not know if he goes far enough; perhaps the current situation, and the money available if flexible enough, will allow him to call for stronger efforts than the seemingly mild recommendations in his Jan 2009 paper.
* Japan is not one of the the four “Asian Tiger” economies (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea), but its experience with redevelopment after WWII (the nation was on the verge of starvation at the end of the ward) is notable and features many similar policy factors as its neighbors: universal schooling, land reform (promoted by the US occupying forces), etc.