January 22, 2010

Haiti and a Fair New World

There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world. Those who are afraid to try themselves, and those who are afraid that you will succeed

Our money, credit and tax systems are confused and overly complicated. They are designed to discourage the subversion of justice by the greedy few, but no - one really understands them.

Systems are created by humans. If they are flawed or incomplete only humans can change them. Systems should be targeted by our emotions and minds, not by socialists or capitalists. The systems we have compelled ourselves to work with determine whether our behaviour and thoughts will encourage vices like greed or envy, or virtue and the good habit of justice.

Every citizen has the personal responsibility to organize with others to make their social system as fair as possible.

A simple tax shift would keep more money in the pockets of ordinary taxpayers to cover, education, housing and other basic household living expenses. Elected representatives could be more directly accountable and responsive. In one move we could eliminate the tax loopholes and exemptions for the super-rich that unjustly discriminate against poor and non-rich families.
You and I are the leaders and activists who need to come together with passionate clarity concerning the fundamentals of economic justice in order to build a powerful force and create a fair global society, a world that works for everyone, a Fair New World.

The rebuilding of Haiti can help serve this larger purpose.
Haiti's vulnerability to natural disasters, its food shortages, poverty, deforestation and lack of infrastructure, are not accidental. To say that it is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere is to miss the point; Haiti was made poor - by France, the United States, Great Britain, other Western powers and by the IMF and the World Bank.

Very few individuals and corporations in Haiti - less than 1% - own and control most of the land. The island is 99% deforested, the cash crops are exported under unfair trade deals which have led to greater and greater debt. Most of the people are landless or have no papers to show that the land they have lived on for generations is indeed theirs. Vast numbers have been trying to survive on just one or two dollars a day; children scavenge garbage dumps for scraps of food leftover from the plates of US soldiers stationed there; and that was before the earthquake.
Up to about 30 years ago, Haiti was self sufficient in the production of rice, but the terms of the IMF loan required that the island reduce tariff protections for its rice and other agricultural products.

By 1988, so much American rice had invaded the country (the US has by far the largest voice in decisions of the IMF),that it became unprofitable for many Haitian farmers to continue planting. The US rice farmers were enjoying subsidies totalling around US$1B per year. The farmers in Haiti got nothing and were forced to move to the cities to find work. That is why so many have died.
Development beyond the current crisis:

It is possible for a fair and just society to be raised from this human disaster. For basic needs to be secured for all, the land problem in Haiti must be addressed through land reform and land value taxation.

There needs to be:

• Establishment of community land trusts and allocation of land for ecological villages.
• Implementation of a transparent public finance system based on land value taxation as called for by the UN Habitat and the Global Land Tool Network.

When secure and equitable land tenure is established, the following basic human needs can be met:

1. potable water
2. reforestation
3. agricultural fields (rice and root crops) and appropriate technology
4. wind and solar energy
5. dairy farms (goats, cows)
6. cotton and hemp fields for fabric and building material
7. mangosteen, mango, pineapple, papaya, trees, nut trees/ coconut trees,
8. holistic heath centres.
9. educational institutions
10. cooperatives.
11. small industries.

One way we can help Haitians build a better tomorrow is to convince global creditors to cancel Haiti’s $890 million international debt. Doing so will help make sure that every possible future dollar goes towards rebuilding a stronger Haiti, not to servicing old debts. This is not charity – it is justice.

With thanks to Allanna Hartzok http://www.earthrights.net/about/hartzok.html
and Don Killoran

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