Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and this tea is very hot! A French Bank has been involved of draining Haiti of it’s resources for a very long time.
Debt had consumed the country of Haiti for more than half a century and despite ousting its colonial rulers in a war of independence, Haiti was forced to pay the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars to its former French slave masters which was considered, a ransom for the freedom it had already won in battle. But on the night of Sept. 25, 1880, paying off the last of that money finally seemed within reach.
The National Bank of Haiti was national in name only but, far from an instrument of Haiti’s salvation, the central bank was, from its very inception, an instrument of French financiers and a way to keep a grip on a former colony into the next century. Haiti’s central bank was set up by a Parisian bank, Crédit Industriel et Commercial. At a time when the company was helping finance one of the world’s best-known landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, as a monument to French liberty, it was choking Haiti’s economy, taking much of the young nation’s income back to Paris and impairing its ability to start schools, hospitals and the other building blocks of an independent country.
Crédit Industriel, known in France as C.I.C., is now a $355 billion subsidiary of one of Europe’s largest financial conglomerates and its exploits in Haiti left a crippling legacy of financial extraction and dashed hope,even by the standards of a nation with a long history of both. Just when that money was nearly paid, Crédit Industriel and its national bank; the very instruments that seemed to hold the promise of financial independence locked Haiti into a new vortex of debt for decades more to come.
Original records uncovered by The New York Times show that Crédit Industriel siphoned tens of millions of dollars out of Haiti and into the pockets of French investors. The national bank that Crédit Industriel created charged fees on nearly every transaction the Haitian government made. French shareholders earned so much money that in some years, their profits exceeded the Haitian government’s entire public works budget for a country of 1.5 million people. Scholars say most of Crédit Industriel’s archives have been destroyed, and Haiti does not appear on the timeline used to publicize the company’s history as one of France’s oldest lenders. When it commissioned an official history to commemorate its 150th birthday in 2009, Haiti barely warranted a mention. The scholar who wrote that history, Nicolas Stoskopf, called the company “a bank without a memory.”
The assassination of Haiti’s president and the rampant kidnappings and the gangland lawlessness in the capital have given fresh urgency to a question that has long bedeviled the Western world: Why does Haiti seem perpetually stuck in crisis, with staggering illiteracy, $2 a day wages, hunger and disease? A country without public transportation, reliable electricity, garbage collection or sewage systems?
Persistent corruption by Haiti’s leaders is part of any answer. But another part can be found in long forgotten documents sprinkled in archives and libraries across Haiti and France.
The Times sifted through 19th-century texts, diplomatic records and bank documents that have seldom, if ever, been studied by historians. Together, the documents make clear that Crédit Industriel, working with corrupt members of the Haitian elite, left the country with barely anything to operate, let alone build a nation. Dream’s Chronicles Reloaded with the permission of The Times obtained the documents and vetted them. By the early 20th century, half of the taxes on Haiti’s coffee crop, by far its most important source of revenue, went to French investors at C.I.C. and the national bank. After Haiti’s other debts were deducted, its government was left with pennies 6 cents of every $3 collected to run the country.
The documents help explain why Haiti remained on the sidelines during a period so rich with modernization and optimism that Americans dubbed it the Gilded Age and the French called it the Belle Époque. This extraordinary growth benefited both faraway powers and developing neighbors, yet Haiti had vanishingly little to invest in basics like running water, electricity or education. The damage was lasting. Over three decades, French shareholders made profits of at least $136 million in today’s dollars from Haiti’s national bank about an entire year’s worth of the country’s tax revenues at the time, the documents show.
But the losses to Haiti were far greater and had the wealth siphoned off by Haiti’s national bank stayed in the country, it would have added at least $1.7 billion to Haiti’s economy over the years more than all of the government’s revenues in 2021, that’s if the money had simply remained in the Haitian economy, circulating among its farmers, laborers and merchants, without being invested in bridges, schools or factories, the sort of projects that help nations prosper. More important, the toll Haiti’s national bank took came after generations of payments to former slaveholders that inflicted as much as $115 billion in losses to the Haitian economy over the last two centuries.
Editor’s Note. Dream’s Chronicles Reloaded along with Journalism & Chill obtained documents that were provided by the New York Times for this story. All documents and sources were vetted before the writing and publishing of this article.
For more on this story. Click the link below.
How a French Bank Captured Haiti https://nyti.ms/3wwnmUj