I sent the following letter a few days ago to USA Today:
Wyclef Jean deserves applause for his efforts to improve the education of Haitian children (“Don’t forget long-term goals for Haiti,” July 15). But in his sensible call for Haitians to focus on the long-run, he misdiagnoses Haiti’s core problem.
Contrary to Mr. Jean’s argument, neither poor education nor a despoiled environment without sufficient trees is at the root of Haiti’s woes. These troubles – along with Haiti’s inadequate infrastructure – are merely symptoms of a deeper problem, namely, Haiti’s appalling lack of secure property rights and market institutions. For example, according to the Economic Freedom of the World index*, property rights in Haiti are the least secure in the Americas – less secure than even in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela!* (Is it, then, any wonder that no one in Haiti has incentives to plant and protect trees?) Also, according to the World Bank, legally starting a business in Haiti requires, on average, 195 days and costs 228 percent of the average Haitian’s annual income in administrative fees.**
What Haiti needs most is a freer, more-entrepreneurial market based upon the rule of law and secure private property rights.
Donald J. Boudreaux
* James Gwartney & Robert Lawson, Economic Freedom of the World, 2009.