Robin Young, host of WBUR’s Here & Now, recently interviewed Paul about charter cities, specifically the notion that charter cities could create more choices for Haitians.
Robin Young: What if Haitians don’t want to leave [Haiti for charter cities]? Does this idea of a charter city count on people who are already gone or already wandering?
Paul Romer: The deep motivation here is to give people who are poor, who are disadvantaged, who are in very desperate circumstances more choices. But right now many of them don’t have that option. There’s just no place that will take them.
RY: Staying with Haiti, if you build even a number of charter cities, don’t you then bleed Haiti [of population]?
PR: You have to think of two issues, or separate two different issues. Are we trying to help Haiti or are we trying to help the Haitians? And I think we should always focus our attention on the Haitians. If the Brazilians were to say to the elites in Haiti: “We’re going to be here for a few years, we’re going to try to set up a well-functioning democratic system that provides local security for Haitians and help Haiti. If you can’t get to that point we’re going to give your citizens an option to go someplace else where they can be safe and have a job.” That competitive threat, that alternative for their citizens, might actually speed up the process towards better governance in Haiti.