Hard to believe that just a year and a half ago, there were food riots in Port au Prince and other Haitian cities. Since then, Haiti has become become politically stable to the point where firms involved in agriculture, textiles, infrastructure development and tourism are considering investing in Haiti. Livelihood opportunities are sorely needed given that half of Haitians live on less than two dollars a day. Still, the majority of Haitians are small farmers. Without opportunities to provide for themselves and their families, the influx of the rural poor to urban centers will only accelerate. Increasing agricultural productivity/opportunities is key to improving food security in Haiti.
In late 2006, we were blogging about Haiti’s kidnapping crisis. Now in late 2009, we are blogging about investment opportunities. Much has changed. Just last week, hundreds of potential investors gathered for the largest investment conference ever held in Haiti, organized by the Inter American Development Bank with financial support from the Canadian government. Will trade become more important than aid some day? This depends on the answers to two questions. First, can investors make a return on their investments? Second, will the government allocate new resources in an effective, accountable way that benefits all of Haiti and not just the cities?
Robert Maguire, with Trinity University and the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), recently wrote a well thought out report (attached and below) on obstacles to stability and growth in Haiti. Maguire highlights important issues such as the neglect of rural Haiti, where most Haitians live, and the need to bolster Haiti's Health and Education Ministries. Throughout, he states success depends not just on securing resources, but on allocating them in a way that is accountable, effective, and demonstrates the committment of the government to reform. Something to keep mind if investment picks up in Haiti.
The Center for American Progress recently released an interesting and cautiously optimistic report (attached) on security in Haiti. For Haiti watchers, the background will no doubt be familiar but there is still much of interest. Below is an analysis of the recommendations. The historical and political cards have long been stacked against Haiti but there is now more evidence and more reasons to expect security will hold and improve. With a lot of work, a bit of luck, and the support of its friends, Haiti will continue to make progress….piti piti.
In the article below, Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald writes how, despite Haiti's many challenges, roads are being built, power plants constructed, and business opportunities growing. Investments in Haiti - in the capacity of its government, in its infrastructure, and increasingly in its private sector, are starting to pay off. Haiti is a country under construction, with something that it has not had for years...momentum.
Rough roads, sporadic electricity, out-dated ports, and rural areas in need of irrigation. Haiti needs Haitian engineers badly. The prerequisite is students who understand and have a passion for math and science. In January 2007, a group of Cap Haitian students (Team Citadel), with the support of Mark Moorman, a Haitian Businessman, and Rotary International, participated in the First Lego League Robotics Challenge in Florida. In April 2009, they again competed in Atlanta. Some of these students may one day become leaders in addressing their country's considerable infrastructure needs.
The past month has been important for Haiti. The World Bank, IMF, and the IDB forgave $1.2 billion of Haiti’s debt. Deals were reached with members of the Paris Club to cancel an additional $152 million in debt. Bill Clinton made his first trip to Haiti as UN Special Envoy. Plus, discussions at the G8 Summit indicated we may be on the verge of a historic shift in how food assistance is delivered, to the benefit of Haiti and other food insecure countries.
Copied below is a strategy paper that Prime Minister Pierre Louis recently released on how the Haitian government intends to meet its short term goals. I was pleased to see the attention devoted to agriculture, the private sector, and infrastructure development. Unfortunately, the Haitian government has yet to receive one gourde from the Haiti Donors' Conference. Hopefully, Special Envoy Clinton has not lost his touch and will be able to encourage Friends of Haiti to honor their pledges. The paper is brief but balanced and well thought out. Please feel free to post your thoughts about it in the comments section.
Below are remarks made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Haiti Donors' Conference today. While the United States provides in kind contributions of food, she notes that this is not the answer to Haiti's hunger. She instead emphasizes the importance of environmental rehabilitation, agriculture, livelihoods, and infrastructure. She also highlights the potential of alternative energy. After the conclusion of the conference, Secretary Clinton will visit Haiti en route to the Summit of the Americas.