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Haiti's Future, Not So Optimistic

Now that President Jean Bertrand Aristide is back again as Haiti's newly elected president, his supporters anxiously await this time, to see if he can deliver on his promises to help the poor and needy, make up with the international community to bring aid into the country and of course to make peace with the 15 party opposition alliance, Convergence.

Aristide has to prove himself to his fellow Haitians and to the outside world. He appeared to have a heart and will in his speech at the inaugural address.

"My arms are open, my heart is open with honor and respect for the Haitian people," he told a crowd of more than 10,000 people outside the National Palace.

And, he also reached out to the opposition during the address, despite failed talks the day before. "All we need to do is get along."

But to his critics: "Words are one thing, acts are another. We are waiting for Aristide to do something positive and concrete," said Gerard Gourgue, 75, provisional president, after the inaugural address.

The move for the Convergence to install their own president, came on the heels of the party being angered by electoral irregularities, which stems from local and legislative elections last May, that handed the Lavalas party more than 80 percent of the votes.

Diplomats blame President Aristide and his party for refusing to reach an agreement with the opposition.

Top officials attended the inauguration, however, from Taiwan, Guatemala, Panama, Belize, the neighboring Dominican Republic and some other countries.

Haiti's population of eight million is growing, while the GNP has shrunk and unemployment and crime have gone up. The GDP per capita is $1,340 (1999 est.)

Nearly 70 percent of all Haitians depend on the agriculture sector, mainly consisting of small-scale subsistence farming and employs about two-thirds of the economically active work force.

Since President Rene Preval took office in 1996, there really hasn't been much job creation. Reaching pacts with international sponsors has been a rocky road, for the badly needed budget.

The future for jobs is not secured.

So, what's ahead in the months and years ahead for Haiti's future economically, politically and overall now that Aristide is back?

Well, Haiti Observateur Raymond Joseph, co-founder and editor, spoke to

"I see the overall prospects ahead as very bleak because of the political chaos in Haiti, esulting from earlier elections in 2000. The Lavalas party of Jean Bertand Aristide grabbed all power. It was so fraudulent that the president of the electoral council denounced it and had to flee the country in extremist before they killed him. Because of that, most people have not accepted the election results. Aristide has no legitimacy. However, he went on and declared himself President and had his inauguration on February 7, at which time most countries did not send delegations to his inauguration."

"And the U.S. won't recognize things until the situation is cleared up."

So how will Aritside be able to compromise, if he's anticipating getting hundreds and millions of dollars in foreign aid and loans, in order to bring his pledges of jobs and stability to Haiti?

Joseph says as far as the outlook for jobs and stability for the people goes, there's no hope. He doesn't think Aristide will be able to compromise.

"Aristide has always made promises. In fact, he's great at making promises. But as soon as he goes through a difficult situation, he always reneges on his promises. So nobody is going to trust him, at least not the political party of the opposition."

When it comes to international aid, "Nobody is going to give him money. He should negotiate before he can get the money. I don't see Aristide negotiating. He doesn't need the money himself, he's a multimillionaire."

"Nobody has ever delved into how he got his millions. He's not suffering, it's the Haitian people who are suffering."

The same tune was echoed from the Executive Director of the National Coaltion for Haitian Rights, Jocelyn McCalla.

"Quite frankly in the short term, economically speaking there's not going to be much change for Haiti. Aristide doesn't have true meaningful support inside and outside the country. It doesn't mean he doesn"t have high expectations from the Haitian people. They are willing to give a long enough leash as he needs in order to make changes, but the fact is that the changes require a lot of investment. And right now it doesn't appear to me that there's going to be much investment in Haiti from Haitians living within the country and abroad."

"Socially, Aristide doesn't have much of an agenda. Although it may sound good in words and deeds, he's not going to shake things up. There's not going to be a lot of social progress."

According to the International Monetary Fund, since the reestablishment of democracy in 1995, after a U.S. military intervention, Haiti had been receiving nearly $125 million a year in international assistance.

But due to instability, IMF attention has been sporadic. The last structural adjustment program was in 1997 because of a domestic political crisis following the disbursement of only $21 million of a planned $120 million loan.

The army ousted Aristide in September 191, and a U.S. military invasion restored him to power three years later.

Constitutionally barred from a consecutive term, Aristide spent only a few months in office before handing power to his chosen successor, Rene Preval, in 1996.

When Aristide became President 10 years ago, international leaders honored his triumph, supporters hailed to their chief. But for the second time around, it doesn't look like Aristide is capable of making a difference to Haiti overall.

Let us bear in mind how Haitian general and self educator, Toussaint-L'Ouverture in 1791, led his people to freedom, a freedom Aristide should fight for if he wants to bring new meaning to success for Haiti.

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