In Haiti, it’s not about bread and circuses. Just the latter, the circuses that distract people from contemplating their woes too fixedly. So to the Karnaval des Fleurs, the second of the ecstatic festivities now laid on by the Haitian government every year.
This particular event was originally a feature of the calendar run by Jean Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, the dictator who succeeded his ‘Papa’. President Martelly resurrected the Carnaval des Fleurs as a sop to Port au Prince, after his contentious 2012 decision to take the national carnival on tour around the country rather than hold it in the capital every year.
The government claims the private sector has picked up 85 per cent of the tab for this year’s Carnaval des Fleurs. Its critics don’t really believe this though various companies did seem to have taken a dozen or so stands across the carnival route.
Whatever their contribution to the 87 million gourdes bill, one has to ask why Haitian business limit their spending to carnivals and suchlike? Why don’t they spend more, more often, on, and within, their country?
(Tomorrow: The petty politics and small economics of carnivals, circuses & suchlike)