Monday, March 22, 2010
After the earthquake, the stealth economy
The New York Times offers a view of the post-earthquake encampment set up in the Pétionville Club, the 9-hole golf course in Port-au-Prince.
What's significant: With 44,000 residents living under tarps, this new neighborhood has "a quasi-mayor, a ragtag security force, a marketplace, two movie theaters, three nightly prayer services, rival barber shops and even a plastic-sheeted salon offering manicures and pedicures." The article goes on to highlight the commercial success of these refugees in their own city.
"Everything is for sale, like hair extensions in baggies and padlocks for the wooden doors that many have installed in their tarp-covered shelters. Inside a United States Agency for International Development tent outfitted with freshly made benches and a flat-screen television, one entrepreneur charges about 12 cents for screenings of a “Terminator” movie and the Malaysian kung fu film “Kinta.” Another young businessman rents out his Playstation in one of the designated 'child safe' areas, a green netting atop four poles. A woman runs a bar atop a crate."
But the article concludes that international agencies want to move these self-sufficient and entrepreneurial people out of the city: "Moving families from encampments like the Pétionville Club entails finding and preparing some 1,500 acres of land — one relocation site recently opened and another is being prepared — and then persuading people to move outside the metropolitan area, international groups say."
This neighborhood is functioning and, compared to many other encampments, relatively healthy. Why break it up? Why send it out of the city? These are the very people who ought to be at the center of the renaissance of the Haitian capital.