Sunday, January 31, 2010

Janet Bagnall Needs Math Lessons

Janet Bagnall is by far my least favourite Montreal Gazette columnist. She's even more annoying than the Gazette's in-house separatist, Josée Legault, who's vapid missives are about as interesting as is a 100 page PQ policy paper.

Mizz Bagnall is the Gazette's resident whining womens libber, who is ever prepared to blame men, successful men, unsuccessful men, male politicians, rich and successful nations run by men, big companies run by men, big government run by men, male bullies and finally, men in general, for all the world's ills.

Her latest missive, Blame the U.S. and France for Haiti's woe is true to form, with 'Blame' being the central theme of yet another column that would get a 'F" from any journalism professor in the country.

In her heavily 'borrowed' piece from assorted journalists and activists, she blames the United States, France and the World Bank for all of Haiti woes. It's the interfering and scheming western world that sought to enslave, rape and dominate this island paradise which has led Haiti down the path of mediocrity.
What else is new?

While proffering all sorts of facts and figures, Mizz Bagnall seems to have little understanding of the math involved.
Here she complains, pirating citing an article in the ultra-left wing THE NATION, that Haiti is saddled with a burdensome debt load.
"Haiti spent $57.4 million to service its debt, Richard Kim reports, a sum that dwarfed the $39.2 million it was given in foreign aid for education, health care, and other services...."
58 million dollars does not "dwarf" 40 million by any stretch of the imagination, perhaps a billion would. Using the 'dwarfed' adjective gives the false impression that there is a wide gap between what Haiti owes and what it gets from the international community. It's a sin of omission not to include in this aid number, donations provided by NGOs, private charities and church groups. (not all aid comes in cash from sovereign governments)

While Mizz Bagnall intimates (quoting Mr. Kim) that this 58 million dollar debt is crushing, it is anything but. Using the figures that she quotes herself, the total amount of debt comes out to under eight dollars per Haitian per year, not a game changer, even for the impoverished Haitians. If you subtract from this number a revised aid figure that accounts for all foreign aid, there isn't any gap at all.
"An economically "reformed" Haiti has seen its 1990 per-capita GDP of $617 fall to $425 by 2004."
This statement is the one I object to the most. Why use outdated statistics (2004) other than to mislead? In 2009 Haiti's per capita GDP was US$660. Link
It's funny how you can make figures dance according to your own agenda. One could safely conclude that Haitians income rose by more than 50% since 2004.

Let's put this whole debt issue into context. The Haitian national debt is somewhere between 600 and 700 million dollars. This number reflects the fact that $1.5 billion of debt has been written off by the international community, quite recently. The money that Haiti does owe, is a relatively small amount even considering Haiti's impoverished condition. It's probably that small because no legitimate banker in their right mind would ever lend the country a dime. At any rate, when apportioned to the 9.6 million Haitians, it works out to less than $70 of debt per person or about one and a half months of salary. By contrast each Canadian owes approximately one and a half years of salary, as their portion of our public debt.
"No sooner had Haiti's slaves declared their freedom and established Haiti as a republic, than France imposed reparations of 150 million francs - under the threat of a trade embargo. Haiti had to borrow from the U.S. to pay the French. It took Haiti until 1947 to pay off about60 per cent of the loan, valued in 2003 dollars at more than $21billion."
Even if it's true, so what? The debt was paid off in 1947. What have they done since then?

Many countries have overcome hardship and adversity and lived through circumstances much worse than Haiti. Germany and Japan are example of countries that have emerged from the dust heap, their people humbled and discouraged, their homeland reduced to a pile of rubble after World War Two, to emerge as powerhouse nations in just twenty or thirty years.
"When the International Monetary Fund extends a helping hand to Haiti,as it did this week, strings are usually attached. According to information posted by Kim, the IMF's conditions include switching from domestic consumption to exports, devaluation of local currency, a sell-off of public goods and services, and a reduction in the salaries and size of the civil service. Haiti's public-sector employment is the lowest in the region at less than one per cent."
Like all apologists, shilling for struggling nations in need of cash, Mizz Bagnall repeats the complaint that the World Bank imposes harsh rules and restrictions as a condition of securing a loan.
I don't know which world she lives in, but in this one, bankers always exact conditions when lending money.
Does she honestly believe that the World Bank imposes these conditions in order to be cruel and vindictive?

Without conditions, is there any doubt that the money would go down the same sinkhole as before? The Haitian economy is so badly mismanaged and corrupt, that any rules would be a positive step.

Haiti ranks 150th out of 180 countries in terms of business climate. It takes over three years to get a construction permit. Does Mizz Bagnall really think we should give them carte blanche?
Here's a report on the basket case that Haiti is:
Doing Business in Haiti

The logical conclusion of Ms. Bagnall's column is that out of guilt, we should send gads of money to Haiti and leave them to sort things out.

It is without a doubt, the very worst of ideas and one that would insure that future generation of Haitians will be doomed to live in the same misery and squalor as Haitians find themselves in today.

Sometimes, Mizz Bagnall, the fault lies within. Sometimes blaming others is not helpful.
What Haiti needs is more interference, not less.
If ever there was an example of a country in need of an intervention, it is Haiti. The United Nations should step in, dissolve it's government and create a trusteeship.

It isn't something new, the UN has run mandates before. For the sake of future generations of Haitians, the world organization needs to take this drastic step.

Like drug addicts and alcoholics that have hit bottom, sometimes an intervention is the only reasonable course of action. Anything else is time, money and effort wasted. Lives are at stake.

Sometimes, you just have to take stock of yourself.... and stop blaming others.....

Listening to apologists like Janet Bagnall will only exacerbate the hopeless situation.


  1. I forget, was this written before or after the quake that shook apart their whole world?

  2. Good writing, however perhaps you want to not use the phrase "whining women's libber" If you have any successful women in your family (including a daughter) you can thank the "whining women's libber". You can't judge all men based on the actions of Marc Lepine, so why judge all feminists on RADICAL (key word is radical) feminism. Bagnall does go overboard sometimes, and it makes me cringe, but she does make some good points. To go to the other extreme and dismiss violence against women as nothing but anti-male propaganda by the "feminazi" is just as bad as some of Bagnall's "anti male" rants