Clipped From The Danville Register
Making PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Jean-Claude Duvalier, Haiti s 24-year-old president, is making a concerted effort to im- prove the economy of this poorest nation in the Western hemisphere and international financial help has been coming in, according to diplomats and financial experts here. Internationa] aid to Haiti came virtually to a halt in the 1960s when the late Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier was president and ran a harshly authoritarian government. He died April 21,1971 and Jean-Claude his son, became "president for life." Economic experts estimate there is currently $75 million com- muted to ongoing programs by foreign lending agencies and Western nations primarily in roadb'uilding, agricultural development, transportation, port development, nutrition and education. Ten years ago, they said, the figure was close to zero. "This activity of the international community couldn't have come to be without a change in attitude on the part of the govern- ment," said.Henri Scioville-Samper, local representative of the Inter-American Development Bank which is one of Haiti's major benefactors. "Whether it's his (Duvalier's) own initiative, or somebody is giving him advice and he's taking it, there is a change," he said. "You feel that they're making a special effort to help them- selves." The government remains authoritarian with vestiges of the arbitrary arrest and terror tactics of the past, but there has been a marked political improvement since Jean-Claude look over. As an example, diplomatic and political observers view a recent Cabinet shakeup as a further effort by the young president to assert his own independence, bring more technical expertise into the government and rid it of those held over from "Papa Doc" days. Young Duvalier has pledged himself to economic develop- ment. In the past two months, his government has signed con- track for copper mining exploration with U.S.-owned Kennecott Copper Corp. and France's Penniroyal. Haili has been accepted as a member of the International Bauxite Association and has applied for membership in the In- ternational Association of Copper Producers. An application for associate status with the European Common Market is pending Although an integral part of the Caribbean geographically - and sharing the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic - Haiti traditionally has been isolated from its neigh- bors. Only since JeanClaude became president has this French- speaking republic made overtures to the Caribbean. Haiti's application for membership in the Caribbean Com- munity (Caricom), composed of 12 present and former mem- bers of the British Empire, was rejected in December. However Cancom claimed Haiti's 5.2 million population was larger than all 12 Caricom partners combined Haiti has, nonetheless kept up minimal contacts in the region primarily through Jamaica Diplomats, economists and well-educated Haitians contend that toe big development push will amount to nothing if something isn't done to control the country's population growth 'What may end up happening is that all this aid will prevent Haiti from sliding further back, but it won't do anything to push them forward unless they can curb the population growth " said one economist. Haiti, with an average per capita income of un- der $100 a year in contrast to about *5,500 in the United States has an estimated population growth of 3.4 per cent annually which is somewhat offset by a high infant mortality rate. The United States now has nearly a zero population growth rate Haiti is one of the most densely populated countries of the world and two-thirds of its area is rough, mountainous terrain unsuitable for cultivation. A drought in the northwest last year spurred a massive in- ternational relief effort and held back economic growth to an estimated 3.5 per cent. "The crops this year have been very good -- the peas millet and corn - the best for several years," said one official of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) "They've been very lucky. The rains have been very good." The major thrust of aid to Haiti by the Inter-American Development Bank, United Nations Development Fund World Bank, Americans, French, Canadians, West Germans, Israelis and Nationalist Chinese has been to stabilize the country's agriculture. A primary focus is roadbuilding with Haiti's three major arteries currently undergoing massive reconstruction. "Before you can Increase agricultural production," explained Sioviite-Samper, "you've got to provide a way for people in and out of rural areas. Right now, there are no year and a half or two years, the whole system will be and the impact on the economy will be great." As an example, he said, the 220-mile trip from Les southwest to Port Au Prince now takes 10 hours by car. "The farmers can't bring their beef, milk and agricultural production to market and they don't increase production because they don't know what to do with it. But all that change when the roads are finished," he added. USAID is expected soon to announce an $11.5 million loan reconstruction of Haiti's secondary roads which are in worse shape than the main highways. The World Bank and Inter- American Development Bank also are reported to be con- sidering additional loans for road reconstruction. Some diplomats and foreign businessmen express a fear perhaps too much is being poured into Haiti too fast, that government can't absorb it and doesn't have the capacity make the local commitment needed, either in matching funds manpower, to make the foreign capital work. Diplomats and businessmen agree that the old Duvalierist "paranoia of toe outside world" has dissolved. "Certainly president and now the government is prepared to do without looking for a plot behind everything," said one diplomat.