Sunday, May 16, 2010

the business

In many previous contributions I have talked about the amazing resilience of Haitian business, however small scale it is. I have collected a number of examples, of typically Haitian business, and of the type of business that has sprung up since the earthquake. Some of it, to be sure, is really sad: people demolishing their own house with a sledge hammer, because it has been damaged beyond repair, that must rank among the cruelest activities on earth, taking down your own biggest physical asset - and for sure it wasn't insured. I saw a sign today advertising what is obviously another new business, "demoliseur des maison" - house demolisher -, so if it gets emotionally too much, you can always hire someone to do it for you. But sad it is.

Here is another sad one: before the earthquake I am sure you couldn't find a wheelchair in Haiti, not easily, now they are for sale in droves on every corner. I have said earlier, Haitians monitise everything, but I sure hope that these are spare ones, not somebody's wheelchair sold in order to access the more basic amenities, like food.

(1) wheelchairs and stretchers and walking aids sold on a street corner, and believe me, crutches are also plentiful available. Since about four months.

Talking about monitising, much of the shelter kits, and the hygiene kits, and the kitchen kits, and the mosquito nets, have found their way to the market.

(2) Tarpaulins for sale on a corner in Petionville, in all sizes and colours that have been imported and distributed in the past four months, and (3, 4, 5) mosquito nets, and all sorts of kitchen gear, all directly out of one of the generously distributed boxes I showed you a few days ago.

Several other 'new' business has been established, or has grown, not in the least the scrap metal dealer. With so many iron bars being salvaged from the demolished houses, and other metal parts, from roofs, fences, doors etc., this is booming business.

(6, 7) another recently thriving business is scrap metal, in all forms, in all sizes, collected with all sorts of transport - quite dangerous, as much of the metal comes in long iron rods, which easily scratch a car or worse, poke your eye out, if swung irresponsibly.

But their is also the business that was there before the quake, and will stay as long as necessary, or at least as long as services do not improve.
(8) This one you should have expected: for the times that fuel shortage is the norm - it is still not entirely back to normal - some will have gotten hold of fuel to sell, quite openly, on the side of the road. The origin is probably siphoning off by drivers from their vehicles, and especially NGOs have poor control systems, and are thus an easy source. This is in fact just another way to support the local entrepreneurs, and our failure to control fuel theft should be part of our livelihood program.

(9) for those who don't have a telephone, the fixed line booth on the corner has long been replaced by a wireless telephone, which can be taken from one corner of the street to the next, or even to another street.

(10) and for those who do have a telephone, but no reliable electricity at home, there is the telephone charger, multiple cables and plugs, attached to a battery. Cost is around 15 Gourdes, or 40 US$ cents, not cheap - to put things in context, abject poverty begins below 1 $/day income, and the slightly less acute poverty line is assumed to be at an income of 2 $/day, and these people have certainly no electricity at home. A daily outside telephone charge then becomes a huge expense!

(11) and my favourite kept for the end: the local pharmacy, most often carried on the head, but here the pills dispenser takes a moment rest. The more different colours of pills, the better the pharmacy, obviously.

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