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Tale of 2 countries—and PH’s options?

12:14 AM November 02, 2013

The difference between the two countries—Haiti and the Dominican Republic—that share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, is so stark that there are actually satellite photos online clearly identifying the two: A rich forest cover in the latter and an arid landscape in Haiti.

The difference goes beyond the landscape: The United Nations has ranked the Dominican Republic 90th out of 182 countries on its human-development index, while Haiti comes in at 149th. As a citizen of Haiti, you’re expected to live about 13 years shorter and, also, be less likely able to read and write than a Dominican.

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Geography does play a role (mountains between the two cut off rain to Haiti), but the major difference seems to be their history. Haiti had a more exploitative colonizer in France, has had a more violent past, and lived under the brutal and corrupt regime of the Duvaliers that lasted 30 years.

It has had great difficulty in shedding this past as its more current story involves several coups, US intervention, endemic corruption, debilitating poverty, devastating tropical storms and a cataclysmic 2010 earthquake that killed close to 200,000 and left the country still-in-recovery mode three years after.

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Does this, in some way, sort of remind you of the Philippines?

I suppose the lesson is we have to soul-search and ask ourselves: Do we want to go the Haiti route or do we see ourselves following the path of our more economically vibrant neighbors like Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore?

Ask the overseas Filipino worker boarding that plane on her way to a three-year assignment in Jeddah and I am sure she’ll want to be able to stay home in a more viable Philippines and be with her husband and two kids.

But ask the soul of that lawmaker who just walked out of that bank to transfer his money to a foreign account and I am sure it’ll say that things are fine the way they are.

What, then, are we supposed to do?

—JAY BUENAFLOR,

[email protected]

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TAGS: Caribbean island, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Hipaniola, Poverty
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