Act on Haiti

THE euphoria now has worn off in impoverished Haiti, six weeks after the departure of its detested dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier. The nation's many sociological and economic problems have come slowly back into focus: high unemployment, low education, little industry and -- given current political unrest -- less prospect of economic investment from abroad. Many potential leaders long ago emigrated; most would-be leaders now in Haiti served in the Duvalier government. After years of mismanagement the land is stripped of topsoil. And after three decades of dictatorship Haiti has a near-total lack of institutional infrastructure -- no mature political organizations, unions, or civic organizations.

Where do you start to strengthen a nation with such major needs -- and how do you find experienced Haitian organizations with which to work?

These challenges confront would-be international benefactors, both individual nations and multinational agencies, as they struggle to find a way to help Haitians improve their living conditions. Improvement must come to ward off continued unrest.

Haiti has assets. For one, its exiles, if they return in sizable numbers. Many are well educated and have leadership potential, albeit little government experience. For another, labor costs are cheap; with guarantees from other nations, foreign industry might be persuaded to invest in labor-intensive manufacturing.

More than anything else, Haiti requires the world's attention. The time to aid it is now, before a desperate bail-out -- perhaps in competition with Marxist ideology -- is required. Getting rid of a dictator may end one struggle, but it begins another: the fight for major social and economic improvement.

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