Cautious Optimism as Investment Trickles into Haiti

  • Posted on: 28 July 2009
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
News: 

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.      

 

Having traded his designer suits for jeans and a T-shirt, the Washington-based international lender surveyed the fruits of a $50 million loan, peppering his Haitian hosts with questions in his quick-study French.

 

Luis Alberto Moreno, Colombian diplomat turned Inter-American Development Bank head, looked out of place to the Haitians tracking his every move as he toured the new yellow and mint-green market complex. He passed bathrooms with gleaming flush toilets, a rest area for workers, clinic, a kids playground -- and a slaughterhouse to prepare fresh meat for the market.

 

In a country where promises are broken and donor contracts take years to execute, the $1.2 million Mariani Market on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince illustrates the steady pockets of progress being made in this fragile Caribbean nation.

 

``There is some momentum,'' Moreno mused. ``It still has a long way to go. But at least there is a sense that the security situation is better, which means a lot of things can start to happen.''

 

Tentatively, cautiously, a mood of optimism is replacing a sense of endless chaos and uncertainty in places like Carrefour, a city buffeted by natural disaster, hunger riots and decades of political turmoil.  Its streets are still clogged with mind-numbing, horn-honking traffic. But, look around Haiti and you can see new schools being built in once-gang-ridden slums, paved streets replacing rutted roads and crops growing in once storm-wrecked fields.

 

As Moreno and countless Haitians know, nothing is irreversible here. The country is a modern-day Sisphyus, a Greek tragedy plagued by ups and downs as it struggles with grinding poverty and volatile politics. Even now there are concerns that upcoming elections, political disagreements within the government and debates over revising the constitution and increasing the minimum wage could derail the momentum.

 

But if there is cause for optimism these days in Haiti, it is because of the arrival of some good news.

 

In the last three weeks alone, $1.2 billion in foreign debt, including $511 million from the IDB, have been forgiven, saving the country $50 million a year in repayments.

 

Canada and the United States both revised their travel advisories and no longer warn citizens to avoid ``nonessential travel'' to Haiti.

 

And within a span of 10 days, the country that couldn't raise $100 million in foreign aid after last summer's back-to-back storms, hosted three of the world's most highly sought-after development pitchmen: former President Bill Clinton, now U.N. special envoy to Haiti; renowned Columbia University anti-poverty economist Jeffrey Sachs; and the IDB's Moreno.

 

``We all want to be here and help,'' Sachs told Haitian Prime Minister Michelle Pierre-Louis during a dinner toast, calling this a ``singular moment'' for her nation.

 

The IDB, which is celebrating 50 years since its founding, chose Haiti as one of four countries to mark its anniversary, bringing its highly influential board of directors here this month along with the prime ministers of the Bahamas and Barbados, and the assistant secretary general of the Organization of American States.

 

Two days of meetings ended with a tour of several long-delayed IDB-financed projects including the market, a $46 million rehabilitation of an irrigation canal to put an additional 19,768 acres of agricultural land back in production in the Artibonite Valley and National Route 1, the 155-mile stretch linking the capital in the south with Cap-Haitien in the north.

 

At a cost of almost $2 million per mile, only 31 miles of the originally envisioned 49 miles, from Port-au-Prince to St. Marc, have been able to get a makeover. The Haitian government and the IDB are still searching for financing for the last 18 miles, which Moreno's 12-car convoy experienced as they bounced and zig-zagged their way around potholes en route from the city of St. Marc to the western Arcadins Coast.

 

``When you look at things from a distance, you think you're doing a lot,'' Moreno says, noting that the IDB will triple its grants to Haiti next year to $128 million. ``But when you come here and see on the ground the huge amount of need, you think you are putting only a little drop in the bucket. That's the contrast you feel.''

 

Last week, a Washington-based team of the U.S. Agency for International Development visited Port-au-Prince -- making good on a promise by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who visited in April, to evaluate how U.S. taxpayers' money and other foreign aid is being spent in Haiti.

 

Last Wednesday, Haitian businessmen finally broke ground on a $56 million, 30-megawatt heavy fuel power plant. The project, conceived in 2005, is expected to save the Haitian treasury at least $2.5 million a month, but will still only meet a fraction of the country's energy needs.

 

But the fact that a group of Korean investors has agreed to pump $3 million into the project -- Haitian investors and banks are already putting in $20 million -- is a sign of progress, Haitians say.

 

``It says Haiti is open for business. Foreigners are starting to believe in the country again,'' said Haitian investor Daniel Rouzier. ``The limelight being put on Haiti right now means we have a strategic window of opportunity to get this country moving again.''

 

The new power plant is not the only investment taking shape around a calmer Cité Soleil, where a new U.S.-government-financed police station recently opened. In addition, newly constructed streets and parks, financed by $6 million in U.S. assistance and built by the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration, offer children and residents respite from their slum.

 

Recently, the Haitian-owned West Indies Group began clearing a nearby lot for the construction of a new $40 million, 1-million-square-foot industrial park. With its 40 buildings, the park will be able to employ 25,000 textile workers as part of the duty-free HOPE II legislation approved by the U.S. Congress. Among those interested in possibly investing in the project is billionaire George Soros' foundation.

 

``It's time for Haitians to take responsibility for their future,'' Rouzier, the Haitian businessman, said. ``We have to come up with internationally competitive projects. We have to be willing to compete with the outside world. We can't just rely on U.S. trade advantages to make Haiti competitive. It has to come from the inside. Rebuild infrastructure and make it available at rates available in other countries.''

 

Comments

This is so exciting! I hope these projects will show others that Haiti is worth investing in.
I'm so glad the US changed their travel advisory. Hopefully this will help to change American's views of Haiti as a 'dangerous and unsafe' place to travel.

By JONATHAN M. KATZ (AP)
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PORT-AU-PRINCE: Lawmakers voted to more than double Haiti's minimum wage Tuesday night after long hours of debate and clashes between police and protesters, who complained they can't feed and shelter their families on the current pay of about $1.75 a day.
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The plan adopted fell short of the $5 wage demanded by the demonstrators, although it would more than double the minimum pay to about $3.75 a day.
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The raise also would include workers at factories producing clothes for export, an idea that President Rene Preval opposed. After refusing to publish into law a plan passed by Parliament in May to nearly triple the minimum wage, Preval proposed giving the garment factory workers an increase to about $3.
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Given the lateness of Parliament's 55-6 vote to adopt the new raise, there was no immediate reaction from the president or from the protesters.
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Earlier in the day, police fired tear gas at some 2,000 protesters who gathered outside Parliament to demand a big increase in the minimum wage. As legislators prepared to meet on the issue, some of the
protesters threw rocks at police and began ripping down flags of U.N. member countries near the building.
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Most of the crowd dispersed before the Parliament session began, with no arrests and only two reported injuries, including a cameraman who was hit in the head with a rock.
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Many of the protesters were minimum-wage factory workers, such as Banel Jeune, a 29-year-old father who sews sleeves on shirts.
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"Seventy gourdes, that doesn't do anything for me," he said, referring to his current minimum wage. "I can't feed my kids, and I can't send them to school."
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The issue has been inflammatory in Haiti, which is the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation. But despite the heated debate and occasional violence, few people would be affected by the wage increase.
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Most of Haiti's 9 million Haitians who are employed work on small farms or sell basic goods on the street. Only some 250,000 people have jobs
covered by the minimum salary law, said lawmaker Steven Benoit, who sponsored the bill.
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Still, some development experts argue that a pay increase would hurt plans for fighting Haiti's widespread unemployment by creating more jobs
in the factories that produce clothing for export to the United States.
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With new trade advantages that allow for duty-free exports of clothing to the U.S., such factories could provide "several hundred thousand jobs to Haitians ... over a period of just a few years," according to a
report submitted to the U.N. in January.
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But it said that plan requires costs be kept down. The report had been requested by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and prepared by Oxford University professor Paul Collier. It is now being promoted by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the new U.N. envoy for Haiti.

in haiti almost everything comes from elsewhere. to learn independence is the first rule that must be learned.
i'd love to see an articleon where all the money and aid went for the last 40 yrs? Does anyone even know? the us cant afford to throw money in we should insist on results which the aid programs are starting to do in africa.

WASHINGTON, DC. - The U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Acting Administrator, Alonzo Fulgham, addressed attendees of the Haitian Diaspora Unity Congress Sunday in Miami Beach, Fla. Fulgham's remarks before the members of the International Congress of the Haitian Diaspora focused on USAID's initiatives to assist Haiti in partnership with members of the Diaspora. Other VIPs who addressed the Congress were Haiti's Prime Minister Michelle Pierre-Louis and former President Bill Clinton.
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In his remarks, Fulgham discussed the launch of the Diaspora Market Place, a partnership with USAID and Haiti's Sogebank Foundation that will provide $2 million in resources to support investments by members of the Diaspora with small and medium enterprises in Haiti. Fulgham also praised the Haitian Diaspora for its role in assisting with the response to natural disasters and other crises that have affected Haiti in the last year; and encouraged continued assistance,
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USAID's programs support the Haitian government in its efforts to promote stability; implement democratic reforms, build public institutions, and provide access to services for its citizens, particularly in health, education, HIV/AIDS services, food security and response to natural disasters in addition to working to increase economic growth and job opportunities.
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Fulgham served from 1984 to 1986 as a Peace Corps volunteer in Port-au-Prince, where he worked with the Government of Haiti and local groups to enhance Haiti's competitiveness through export promotion.
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Following his attendance at the Congress, Fulgham departed for a 2-day official visit to Haiti to meet with government officials and conduct oversight of USAID programs.

Apparently, the Ministers of the Environment ofr Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Cuba have signed an agreeemnt to stimulate environmental, economic, social, and cultural projects and to coordinate policies to better preserve the environment. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) both play major roles in this initiative.
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PHI Group, is a california based mining company that has teamed up with VCS Mining to begin mining in Haiti. To my knowledge, this is the second mining company operating in Haiti. Newmont Mining of the USA is already preparing to mine two sites in Haiti.

http://www.lenouvelliste.com/article.php?PubID=1&ArticleID=71684&PubDate...
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Haiti: Entrepreneurs eager face of government inaction
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Gonave Economic Development Group (composed of Haitian entrepreneurs) and the Global Renewable Energy Group based in the United States have expressed their impatience Friday with the slow pace of the Haitian government to give the green light to start an ambitious project development particularly for the island of La Gonave.
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Before an audience of journalists at the Hotel Montana, the initiators and promoters of "The Gonave for a new Haiti," presented this project to make La Gonave the biggest tourist port in the Caribbean.
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One member of the public / private partnership known as the label's Gonave Development Authority (LGDA), namely Pastor Chavannes Jeune, spoke of mega-project in reference to this initiative which will extend over a period 20 years and whose cost is estimated at 48 billion U.S. dollars. The various activities of Development included in this mega project target areas as diverse as construction, energy, tourism, agriculture.
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According to plans submitted by project sponsors, LGDA plans to build in La Gonave international tourist port capable of accommodating six cruise ships per week with a capacity of five thousand tourists by boat, thirty thousand tourists a week. The developers are also considering building a small pre Executive Airport that will allow technicians to go easier on it and thus accelerate the project. "Then we will have a major international airport.
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To feed the thirty thousand tourists, the initiators of "The Movement Gonave for a new Haiti 'rely on local production and livestock they have improved by highlighting two hundred and fifty miles (250 000) hectares of land. In sum, development activities included in this project are all over the country and will create about two hundred and fourteen miles (214 000) jobs in La Gonave and one million five hundred thousand jobs across Haiti, informed Chavannes Jeune.
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Foreign investors are very supportive of this project for which millions of dollars already invested for three years. However, with the silence shown by the Haitian authorities, most of these investors are beginning to despair and express their willingness to drop so by June 30 no decision comes from the Haitian government giving the signal to start the project.
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According to proponents, Gonâviens have already committed to this project that promises a bright future. To show their commitment to the project, forty thousand inhabitants of the island signed a petition to ask the Haitian authorities to approve the project by signing a contract with the initiators. We expect this project for thirteen years, it is timely for the Government to give its word. Otherwise, it is us who will come to him in Port-au-Prince.
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The President of The Gonave Development Group (AGEDG), Johnny Armand explains that the organization he heads is established since 1999. It also has an office in Miami and Chicago. The catastrophic economic situation of Haiti is one of the reasons for its presence in the country. He has traveled extensively throughout the world and it is with rage inside he finds the cancellation of Haiti from the list of tourist destinations in the Caribbean. So to remedy this state of affairs, he met a few investors and they all began to change all that through a process to restore Haiti to its former name:''The Pearl of the Antilles,''said the official.More>
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"Funding of $ 1.7 billion is currently available to support the simultaneous construction of these infrastructures," said Alain Placide, vice president of AGEDG, adding they have already handed over to all the required documents. With this, they expect them whether they take the final decision. All they want is a partnership with the Haitian government and the private sector. No financial contribution is sought in government, as the vice president who claims to have met all the public bodies involved in this project.
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Gonave always attracts big investors
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Some may say this is a subject that comes to reopen the debate in a country where less than half a million people work on a total of over 9 million inhabitants and where the controversy on the minimum wage are running lot of saliva. However, for some observers, as the position of the Haitian government on an important issue is inadequate given the precarious state of Haiti in terms of potential for job creation, as the project AGEDG by its size is surprising in a country labeled''at risk''by the international community in the context of acute economic crisis.
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Asked about his position on the label contiguous countries at risk in Haiti, Fred Rice said that La Gonave is a blank space that begs to be exploited. To this he added the quality of the bay where the depth is one of the best places in the Caribbean and even America to build a port where large tankers from the Middle East can easily dock.
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Equipped with all basic infrastructure and managed effectively, can generate Gonave The envy of many foreign investors and thus constitute an attractive investment hub where major insurance companies will offer their services, says the CEO of Global Renewable Energy.
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Pere Magloire, who led at one time the parish of La Gonave, has supported the project. There are many things to do in La Gonave, he said, focusing on the natural potential of this island is one of the last landmarks of flamingos, a species threatened with extinction in Haiti if there is nothing ' is made.
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"Support this project and we bring you a new Haiti," chanted Amy McGee, marketing manager of Global Renewable Energy. The project will officially start in August if all goes as planned. It's a win-win project that will change the lives of everyone, "she said.
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With a tone that could lead to a campaigning politician, CEO of Global Renewable Energy, Fred E. Rice discussed the situation in the country and demonstrated the value of Haitians to support the project. There are more than 20 years ago, Haiti has voted for a constitution to guarantee better governance and a better life for the population. 20 years later, the country has not benefited from the rights prescribed in the basic charter, "said the American businessman.
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"Many people believe that Haiti will never change and that the project AGEDG not happen. We guarantee you otherwise, because investors have $ 1.7 billion as seed money, "he said.
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James Debrosse, U.S. attorney of Haitian descent well known in New York, was surprised at the motivation behind the American businessmen wanting to invest in Haiti, while the other hand, admits he does not understand the 'stubbornness of Haitian leaders to reject the proffered hand. "This is an opportunity offered to Haiti with this project. If we let it pass, we may never find her, "said Mr. Debrosse.
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A mind that the island of Gonave remains, so far, the site of the most coveted investment by foreign investors. Not less than fifteen applications were sent to various Haitian governments by large foreign investors for large development projects, reports does it. The Haitian authorities always end up having the last word by using the patience of investors who end up being discouraged. Meanwhile, La Gonave, despite all its strengths, remains one of the poorest municipalities in terms of basic infrastructure and jobs.
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Note that no representative of government or the private sector was not noticed in the presentation room of this huge project

WASHINGTON, USA -- As part of Inter-American cooperation efforts of support for the Government of Haiti in terms of institutional strengthening, socio-economic development, environmental sustainability and security, the Organization of American States (OAS) has organized a high-level Inter-American Mission that will visit Haiti from September 3 - 6, 2009.
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Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, stated that “the mission will seek to highlight success stories, including programs supported by the international community and their impact on the development process in Haiti.” He further informed that the mission will also engage with the authorities in Haiti to further discussions on continued support of the inter-American community to Haiti.”
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Senior officials from institutions of the Inter-American system including the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), as well as representatives of OAS Member States and OAS authorities will participate therein.
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The Mission will also serve to stimulate joint efforts and initiatives by the participating institutions and draw attention to the accomplishments of the government and people of Haiti as well as the commitment of the international community to support the country’s political, economic and security environment, and to seek alignment between the agencies’ mandates and the priorities set by the Haitian authorities.
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“The Inter-American mission to Haiti offers a propitious opportunity to reenergize the hemispheric cooperation with this country and to create synergies to better support its socio-economic development”, Ambassador Ramdin said.
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The mission follows up on mandates from the Fifth Summit of the Americas and OAS General Assembly Resolution 2487 in support of the socio-economic development and political stability of that country. This resolution urged international lending institutions and Haiti’s partners to continue to coordinate their initiatives with the Haitian Government, with a view to maximizing outcomes through coordinated channels and procedures for the delivery of aid.

WASHINGTON, United States, August 31, 2009 - The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a US$25 million policy-based grant to Haiti that will allow the government to boost much-needed revenue.
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The IDB said the funds it was providing would specifically support the government's reforms to increase tax and customs revenues, improve the efficiency of public spending and strengthen the management of public debt.The assistance will also contribute to Haiti's efforts to reinforce its Public Works Ministry's capacity to plan, develop and maintain the national road network as well as to the government's efforts to increase the efficiency of the state-owned utility company, Electricité d'Haiti.

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2009 - The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved the following project:
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IDA Grant: US$5 million
Project ID: P112164
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Project Description: Additional Financing for the Electricity Loss Reduction Project for Haiti aims to improve the quality of electricity services to customers and strengthen the financial and operational performance of the public electricity utility Electricite' d 'Haiti (EDH). The additional financing will: (i) improve the management of the utility by providing a two-year program of technical assistance to EDH; (ii) finance cost overruns for the two customer systems and the remote meters; and (iii) help strengthen the capacity of the ministry of public works to oversee the energy sector and cover additional project management costs.
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Media Contact
Stevan Jackson
(202) 458-5054
sjackson@worldbank.org
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For more project information, please visit:
http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=64283627&piPK=732...

the project of La Gonave would be a blessing to the country of Haiti. The authorities probably don't see their take in the project, they need their cash up front and under the table. I believe the people of la gonave will rise up and take actions into their own hand, let's make something good happen for the Island of la gonave,so haitians will stop risking their lives on little boats and seek better life elsewhere where they can take the same risk except this time their destination will be their own birthland, and where there won't be no deportation.

Haiti is on the rebound after decades of political strife. The country’s new prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive promises continuity after his predecessor’s unceremonious ouster. And there’s a new confidence creeping into Haiti’s private sector.
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By David Adams | PODER Magazine
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Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere. About 78% of its 9 million people live on less than $2 a day, and 56% on less than $1, according to the World Bank. After years of political upheaval the hemisphere’s poorest country, Haiti, is enjoying a period of relative stability and progress. The economy is growing for the first time in decades, and violence is down, thanks in large part to a United Nations military force, led by Brazil and Argentina and Chile.
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In fact, Haiti’s government, together with private sector leaders, are declaring that the country is once again “open for business.” That was their message at the 33rd annual Miami Conference on the Caribbean, held recently at the downtown Intercontinental Hotel. Improvements have been made at the port terminal in Port-au-Prince to speed up handling of commerce, industry leaders say. The number of days needed to open a new business, has been cut from 250 to only 75.
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"We see a lot of positive changes in Haiti. We're excited," said Jose Perez-Jones, senior vice president of Miami-based shipping line Seaboard Marine, a major carrier of Haitian imports and exports. Employment in the garment industry has more than doubled in the last three years, up from 12,000 in 2006, to 26,000, with Brazilian, Korean and U.S. companies looking to invest in new factories.
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Vietnamese investors are also looking to invest in the state-run telephone company. Tropical Telecom, an internet service provider invested about $7 million this year and plans to invest another $5 million next year. Haiti’s new pro-business attitude has won the backing of major international supporters, led by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who was recently named U.N. envoy to the country of 9 million.
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In the past Haiti’s private sector has been blamed for preserving inefficient monopolies and ignoring the country’s well-being. That appears to be changing. “There is a new sense of belief in ourselves, that we can and e have to do things better,'' said businessman Gregory Mevs. “It’s not just one or two of us, it’s a collective realization that we have a social responsibility to lift up our country.”
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The WIN Group, owned by the Mevs family, is developing a $45 million industrial park with the backing of the Soros Economic Development Fund, headed by George Soros, the financier and philanthropist. “The mentality is changing in Haiti. Laws are being passed and there are rules in play,” said Richard Coles, Haiti’s largest garment manufacturer, with 6,000 workers supplying the Hanes brand. “Those of us who invest in Haiti are seeing returns.''
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But Haiti still has a long way to go. In a ranking of business-friendly countries, Haiti ranked 151st out of 183, only two places above Iraq, according to a recent World Bank study. The country’s economy is still reeling for the effects of a rebellion that overthrew the government in 2004, as well as a series of devastating storms and hurricanes that struck the island in 2004 and 2008, that killed hundreds, flooded entire cities and caused widespread crop losses.
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“You are not going to have political stability in a country where people are starving,” said Ralph Moss, vice president for Governmental Affairs at Seaboard Corporation, which has major shipping and flour interests in Haiti. Business leaders hope to attract Haitian professionals who abandoned the country during turmoil, and now live in the U.S., concentrated in the South Florida and New York areas. An estimated 80 % of Haiti’s professional workforce live outside the country, according to Joseph Baptiste of the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians.
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The country’s new Prime Minister, Jean Max Bellerive, addressed the conference, welcoming investors and committing his government to facilitate business.
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Afterwards he spoke with PODER 360.

THRE IS NOTHING MORE THAT I CAN SAY THAT HAVEN'T BEEN SAID. THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR PRESIDENT MICHEL MARTELY CROWN AS THE BIGGEST PRESIDENT IN HAITIAN HISTORY WITH THIS PROJECT.TO ME, THIS IS A TRULLY GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY FOR PRESIDENT MICHEL MARTELY MOST IMPORTANTLY, IS FOR THE HAITIAN PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN WAITTING WELL OVER TWO HANDRED YEARS TO BREATH A BETTER FRESH AIR. WITH THIS PROJECT I TRULLY BELIEVE THERE WILL BE A BETTER FUTURE FOR HAITI. AND UNLIKE THE REST OF THE ASSASSANS THAT HAVE BEEN ROB THE COUNTRY FOR A VERY LONG TIME NOW, I AM PRETTY SURE THAT THE PRESIDENT WILL DO WHATS RIGHT FOR THE PEOPLE OF HAITI.

THANK YOU, JEAN R SAINTARD "THE GONAVIEN"

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