Friday, September 26, 2008

Commentary: Time Is Ripe For A Coordinated Marshall Plan Towards Haiti

By Jean H Charles

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to build a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at:"][/caption]After a deadly strike by four hurricanes within a span of a month, time is ripe for a coordinated Marshall Plan directed towards Haiti in particular and towards the whole Caribbean in general.

The devastation of Europe after the successive blows by both the German Nazis and the Allied Forces, upon all the cities and the infrastructure of Europe during World War II, had created a desolation that was leading to a complete meltdown of the world economy.

Some sixty years ago, George C Marshall, the General that formerly led the American troops in Europe, donned his diplomat’s suit to become the Secretary of State of the United States. In a commencement speech at Harvard University on June 5, 1947, he put forth the blueprint for a comprehensive American Aid Program to reconstruct Europe. The Marshall Plan, as it was later named, remains up to today the most successive foreign venture of the United States of America since its very creation on July 4, 1776.

The Marshall Plan, dubbed the “lifeline to sinking men” by the British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, “provided a ray of hope where none had existed before and an act of generosity beyond belief”. Hitler did not rampage through Haiti, but after fifty years of man-driven mismanagement, economic strangulation and nature -- successive strikes by hurricanes -- the country is as devastated as Europe was in the severe winters of 1946-1947.

Marshall urged the European governments to take the lead, the Americans would follow by providing “ friendly aid” in the drafting process and the financial support for a workable program, a regional program not a collection of disparate national schemes but a project founded on the principle of self-help, resource sharing and regional integration”

Haiti, under the leadership of its new government led by an ambitious and savvy chief of government, Michelle Pierre Louis, and the Caribbean, shepherded by the bold initiative of integration by Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago, must engage in that mode of launching a call for a Marshall Plan that will include not only Haiti but the entire region of the Caribbean.

The Paris Conference that took place on July 12, 1947, one month after the call to lead by George Marshall, reunited some 16 European countries that included Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Greece, France, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Holland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey to draft a plan that became the European Recovery Program.

President Harry Truman submitted the plan to the American Congress, leading to the signature of the Economic Cooperation Act. It was approved with an initial purse of 5 billion US dollars for the first 18 months, leading to a total of 13 billion dollars package and expenditure in a four-year rebuilding program.

Europe has rebounded. The signatory countries constitute today the core of the European Union, a true success story for the world economy, for world peace and for growth on a global scale.
A similar Marshall Plan with a purse of 6 billion dollars with the bulk of the money (3 billion dollars) going towards Haiti and Guyana (the two poorest countries of the region), will transform the entire area, putting each country on the path of sustainability.

The project sponsored by the American government with participatory contribution and input from the European Union, China and Japan will transform the lives of some of 30 million in the region for the best and forever. The Bush government, the American Congress, (including the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus) the presidential candidates (Democrat and Republican) are certainly amenable to such a demarche. A perfect storm for indeed a perfect recovery program that will be in tune with the financial initiatives proposed by the Bush administration to rekindle the American economy and the financial meltdown.

Haiti in particular, and the Caribbean in general will have to confront their own demons to initiate and facilitate the implementation of such a plan. Haiti is discriminating against its rural population on the political, social and economic side, its Diaspora on the political area, and its mulattoes in the political sphere. Guyana has not found a formula to well integrate its black and its Indian population to take full advantage of its abundant natural resources. The small countries of the Caribbean are holding onto the colonial ethos of linkage to London, Toronto, New York and Amsterdam instead of, or in addition to linkage to each other.

In these tough times, bold leadership is de rigueur, George C Marshall led the way for Europe some sixty years ago; his name will remain forever as the father of the European recovery. The field is wide open in America and in Europe for the new George C. Marshall to emerge for Haiti and for the Caribbean. The rest of the world will forever salute you for your leadership, your determination and your compassion for your fellow human beings!

Source: CNN

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