Former Prime Minister: Haiti ‘turned its back on science’

When four severe hurricanes hit Haiti in 2008, there wasn’t a single engineer on the island who could help design and build a bridge, the country’s former prime minister said this week.

Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis spoke at UMass-Boston on Monday. Her remarks before a gathering put together by the Haitian American Students club focused on the challenges in rebuilding the country and Sunday’s controversial national elections.

“Aid will not build Haiti, investment will,” Pierre-Louis said, underlining many of her critiques of Haiti’s recent travails.

Haiti’s lack of a population policy was a main factor that contributed to the massive loss of life during last January’s earthquake, she asserted. A city like Port-au-Prince that was built for 300,000 inhabitants was overcrowded with over 1 million residents before the Jan. 12 quake.

When it came to education, Pierre-Louis said, “Haiti turned its back on science,” referring to the lack of engineers in the country. She called for a renewed focus on education to help rebuild a talent pool of professionals in Haiti.

As for the economy, she revealed there had been steady growth from 2007 to 2009. But that growth was undermined by lack of investment in new enterprise, she said.

Most of the monetary aid the country received was through non-governmental organizations that serve as the main social service providers in Haiti. The former prime minister served as the executive director of the Knowledge and Freedom Foundation (FOKAL), a leading non-governmental organization in Haiti.
Pierre-Louis pointed to Sunday’s national elections— which were wrought with fraud allegations and streets teeming with protests— as evidence that Haiti needs immediate political stability to protect investments in its future.

“Changing the political culture is the hardest thing to do,” she said.

Pierre-Louis recently wrapped up a lecture series as a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She has plans to return to Haiti soon, she said.