The Haitian Diaspora are often specifically targeted by criminals in Haiti, whether it be to defraud, swindle, kidnap or even murder. Among the hopes that I have for the presumptive President-elect Jovenel Moïse is that he would sign law, classifying crimes targeting the Diaspora as “hate crimes” with extremely aggressive pursuit and the steepest penalties. And this should be part of a greater Diaspora Initiative.
I don’t want to pretend to know what the next president of Haiti would do, or tell them what to do, but if I were in their shoes, facilitating more engagement from the Haitian Diaspora, to make this community a resource for wealth, expertise and influence abroad, would be of my highest priorities. It would set a foundation for support for when international assistance fails – as it usually does – and for long term development from a powerful group that cares.
First, Haitians visiting Haiti or wanting to participate in their country must feel safe. That is not the case. Crimes against the Diaspora occur far too frequently and there is almost never justice, or so much as outcry from authorities. Such crimes should be considered hate crimes. There should be campaigns to show the important need the country has for its Diaspora community and a task force should be set up.
The task force should focus on the methods of attackers, who operate from airports or hotels. The task force should be established to show that this crimes against Diaspora will not be taken lightly. The laws should be strict, tripling penalties for a crime targeting a member of Diaspora. Responding to these issues of safety would be a minimum to seeing more visits, more participation, more investment from Haitians living abroad.
Second, I would like to see Haiti uphold its responsibility to its Diaspora to ensure they are given the opportunity to be civically engaged. The Constitution in effect and Electoral Laws guarantee the Diaspora the right to vote but the facilitation has not matched the responsibility.
Should the Diaspora be formed into an 11th department with lawmakers in the Haitian Parliament? Perhaps. When Haiti meets its requirement for giving the vote, data will be available to quantify the 1/3 of 15 million Haitians that live abroad and ideas to making that happen would deserve consideration.
Lastly, I continue to believe that a unique investment market should be established to allow Haitians living abroad to invest in companies in Haiti. This is the form a real project for investment in Haiti should take. A marketplace, where the Diaspora can look at thousands of businesses in Haiti, their financial reports, forecasts, and decide to invest money in growing those businesses.
An investment market is far better than the method that exists today, which is remittances. Haitians in the Diaspora take up two, sometimes three, jobs just to send money to Haiti. After that money is sent, it is gone, more often than not, wasted to no long-term impact.
With an investment market, those abroad have an opportunity to earn through the gains of their investment and in Haiti, the business grows and hires more people, decreasing the reliance on remittances.
It also helps the business owners too. Far too often it is with loans that businesses in Haiti survive and that is not a recipe for growth, considering the interest and pressure to repay on their backs. Investment is the way to grow.