Colonial masters may be a thing of the past, but the decolonized still have one thing in common: payback.
After an earthquake struck Haiti this week, commentators are asking why this Caribbean nation is so poor. One answer that keeps coming up is its tryst with colonialism.
Haiti freed itself of French rule in 1804, but France forced it to pay 150 million gold francs in exchange for recognizing its independence. In 2004, Haiti made a move to demand restitution. After all, that debt devastated Haiti; it didn’t finish paying it off until 1947.
The same year, Britain relinquished the jewel in its crown, without exactly having paid everything back either. For instance, India paid London “home charges” from 1858 to 1947—£40-50 million a year around 1930—for military and administrative expenses the British incurred here—a tax on a poor people to remain under foreign rule.
Should India be demanding this back? We could even complain about the Rs13 Winston Churchill owes the Bangalore Club from 1899. It’s best to look ahead, without forgetting the colonial curse.