Aid - 1981 - "greed"
Jack Anderson Duvalier's greed may end aid WASHINGTON - In past columns, I have exposed the flagrant corruption of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the Haitian dictator, who has made himself the chief recipient of relief funds intended for his impoverished countrymen. Millions of dollars have disappeared into his palace accounts — much of it contributed by the American taxpayers who have better ways to spend their money than to finance Baby Doc's revelries. Yet the frustrating fact is that it may be cheaper to let him go on looting the relief funds than to cut them off. Here is the iogic behind that assumption: True, he has been diverting International Monetary Fund loans to his personal use. But a cutoff would reduce the populace, already the most destitute in the hemisphere, to abject poverty. Financial crises have curtailed the corruption in the past; there simply wasn't enough loose money left in Haiti to steal. But as a result, the impoverished Haitians, driven by stark hunger, have fled their country in makeshift boats. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, drowned at sea; the rest were tossed up on our shores as illegal aliens. As I reported in January, unless our AID program improves dra-, matically, we can expect an increasing wave of Haitian "boat people" trying to escape the economic misery of Baby Doc's regime. The cost to the American taxpayers could exceed the graft he now siphons off. But Baby Doc's insensate greed may bring an end to his spoils. The International Monetary Fund may simply stop further loans to Haiti. A confidential State Department cable, examined by my associate Bob Sherman, makes clear what trouble this would cause. "The country would then have to live from hand to mouth," the cable states. "U.S. dollars, which constitute 25 to 40 percent of currency in Haiti, would disappear. Severe hardships would ensue, but as Haiti showed in the 1966-69 financial crises, the country has managed such catastrophes before. Ironically, one effect of the late 1960s crises was that corruption diminished significantly because money was not available for leakage." What IMF intends to do, according to my sources, is make Baby Doc more accountable for the money he collects and spends. Like a banker who insists on a complete financial accounting from a prospective borrower, the IMF plans to make Duvalier tell it what he does with the taxes he levies on Haitian agricultural crops. The IMF suspects that Baby Doc taps the till of agricultural taxes for his own benefit. It wants him to "fiscalize" the taxes on these crops — that is, disclose how much he collects from Haitian farmers and how it is budgeted in government expenditures. This is something that is taken for granted in democracies like ours but is somehow conveniently overlooked in a personal dictatorship like Haiti. Skeptics feel that forcing Baby Doc to put his income and outgo on the record will only cause him to change his methods of thievery. And cutting off his loans would likely cause more problems than it would solve. Footnote: Among the 141 IMF members, the United States puts up the lion's share of the money that the organization lends. The confidential State Department cable reports that West 'Germany, Venezuela and Canada may cooperate with the IMF's get-tough- with-Duvalier approach but that "the French are a long shot." EXECUTIVE MEMO: Congress appropriated $23 million to help local school districts cope with the influx of Vietnamese "boat people" into their schools.' There are 38,500 refugee pupils in California alone. But Education Department bureaucrats, apparently trying to curry favor with Reagan administration budget cutters, have sat on the funds since they were appropriated last August. — The Department of Energy has clamped a muzzle on its staff. Employees have been told to say as little as possible to congressional committees and anyone else who inquires about the Reagan administration's energy plans. The reason seems to be that there aren't any plans yet, because only two of the 20 policy-level positions have been filled. The gag policy is so extreme that one memo warns: "No Department of Energy pamphlets and brochures shall be released witho be released without prior approval" of Energy Secretary James Edwards' special assistant. His name is Armand Reiser, in case you iser, in case you want a pamphlet on insulation or solar heat. — If Secretary of State Alexander Haig wants to get tough on terrorists, he might start cracking down on his own department's free- spending terrorism experts. They waste an inordinate amount of time — and taxpayers' money — attending conferences and think-tank seminars. The resulting reports wind up in Foggy Bottom files — and our diplomats overseas are still vulnerable to terrorist attacks. — For sheer bureaucratic complexity, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in a class by itself. A hodgepodge created to deal with everything from earthquakes, floods and famine to riots, terrorist violence and nuclear disaster, FEMA reports to 10 con-i gressional committees and 14 subcommittees. And its budget is so complicated, no one knows for sure how big it is. Best guess: about $1.2 billion a year. Copyright, 1981, United Feature Syndicate.