Investing in Haiti

By Bryan Schaaf on Sunday, April 12, 2009.

Most would agree increasing trade is important for Haiti's long term development.  Where people disagree concerns what kind, how much, and where.  Haiti has never been an easy place to invest, but it has enormous potential due to its large multinational Diaspora, proximity to the United States, vast labor pool, and now the passage of Hope II.  Given these advantages, is Haiti open for business?  

 

There are a number of American companies operating in Haiti. These includes American Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Newmont Mining, Trilogy Inc, Continental Grain, Chevron, Comme Il Fault Tobacco (owned by Luckett Inc.), Citibbank, and the Sol Group.   New York based Hidalgo Mines recently announced that they will partner with a Haitian law firm to register and begin mining operations in Haiti.

 

There are several non American companies involved in Haiti.  This includes Eurasian Minerals, (Canada) Royal Caribbean (UK), ELF Acquitane (France), and Scotia Bank (Canada).  The largest company in Haitian history is the Irish firm Digicel.  Thanks to Digicel, more Haitians than ever before have access to reasonably priced cellular communication.  Further, Digicel supports numerous philanthropies in Haiti.  To date, there has not been a tradition of the Haitian private sector supporting charities in Haiti.  Hopefully, other companies will look to Digicel as a model.

 

To be sure, Haiti is not an easy place to invest.  The global economic downturn, food insecurity and subsequent riots have taken a toll.  Remittances, a traditionally reliable source of income for Haitian families with loved ones in the Diaspora are on the decline.  The last hurricane season was disastrous.  Few businesses are willing to invest in a place like Gonaives, knowing that the city is potentially one storm away from being decimated.

 

Of 180+ countries surveyed by the World Bank, Haiti ranked 176th in ease of starting a business.  There are 13 steps involved in starting a business in Haiti.  Running through these steps could take between six weeks and two years depending on who you know and how much money you have.

 

Given the complexities involved in starting a business in Haiti, I was interested in knowing who is there to help potential investors.  There is a Haitian American Chamber of Commerce  and an American Chamber of Commerce for Haiti.  Most members of the Diaspora I have spoken with did not even realize there was an American Chamber of Commerce for Haiti.

 

USAID is partnering with SOGEBANK to engage the Diaspora.  Another initiative designed to attract investment was the establishment in July 2007 of the Investment Facilitation Center (CFI), a one-stop investment facilitation center to promote investment opportunities.  The CFI was established to simplify the procedures related to trade and investment, to provide economic and commercial information to local and foreign investors, and to promote investment in priority sectors.

 

Agriculture should be considered a priority sector for investment.  While trade will be beneficial to Haiti, we must think more broadly than Port au Prince as urbanization does not neccesarily mean developent.  Modernizing the agricultural sector is the only way to have a nation wide impact.  First and most importantly, Haiti must be able to feed itself.

 

We all know the Haitian government lacks capacity.  In 1996, legislation was passed allowing for the privatization of public enterprises.  There is not much evidence to say whether privatization has been successful or not in Haiti.  Only two state owned enterprises have ever been privatized.  In 1998, Seaboard and Continental Grain purchased a majority stake in the state owned flower mill.   In 1999, a multi-national consortium purchased a majority stake in the national cement factory.   The government has from time to time expressed interested in privatizing Teleco, the airport, and several seaports.  There is some private sector investment in electricity to compensate for the shortcomings of Electricite d'Haiti (EDH).

 

Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index for 2008 ranked Haiti the fourth most corrupt country in the world.  In 2004, the government established the Specialized Unit to Combat Corruption (ULCC) in the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Apparently, the ULCC is drafting a national strategy to combat corruption and is also preparing a code of ethics for the civil service.  The anti-corruption bill will be sent to Parliament once finished. 

 

To be fair, President Preval realizes corruption is a major problem and has taken steps to combat it.   For example, he has tried to clean up the customs system, which is rife with corruption.  Just to give a sense of how corrupt, I was once involved with an non profit organization that had food shipped in to support its feeding program.  The customs officials demanded a bribe which the organization could not pay.  Much of the food, which was intended for vulnerable children, rotted.

 

In May 2008, U.S. Congress passed HOPE II, which extends the trade preference of HOPE I for ten years starting October 2008. This U.S. trade preference legislation should boost Haitian private textile investment and investment in the Haitian textile industry sector.  Some estimate that HOPE  has generated approximately 5,000 jobs.

 

According to Paul Collier, the security provided by peacekeeping and the market access provided by HOPE are a window of opportunity - potentially Haiti could (again) break into the US garments market.  Collier notes that in Bangladesh, a country that struggles with governance and corruption much like Haiti does, the sector provides more than two million jobs.  In Haiti, 100,000 jobs would be transformative.  

 

For this to happen Collier is quick to note that the governance of ports and customs needs improving, and the export zones need exemptions from legislation that prevents the private generation of electricity and multi-shift working.   As he puts it, these changes would have political costs, but if they create jobs, the government will make them. 

 

Infrastructure is very important.  Collier believes that garment production has been more successful in Ounaminthe than Port au Prince because of reliable electricity provided via the Dominican Republic.  Infrastructure will no doubt be a major point of discussion at this week’s donors conference hosted by the Inter American Development Bank.   

 

Strengthening the private sector will help Haiti's long term growth.  To make any gains in the private sector sustainable, there must also be investment in reversing environmental degradation and making agriculture viable for Haiti's population, most of whom live in rural areas.  We hope that Hope II will make a difference in encouraging foreign direct investment. 

 

We welcome your thoughts on how Haiti can best benefit from trade.  Thank you for reading.

Bryan 

Haiti

Hello everyone! I'm looking to start a business in Haiti to help the people of Haiti support themselves. My Aunt has been a missionary in Haiti for over 25 years and has helped the children with education and the feed the elderly and less fortunate. However, I noticed that for those children that graduate from her high school there weren't any careers or jobs for them to turn to. This is why I feel that I need to step in and do whatever I can to start an agricultural business to help them. I have a few ideas of some products that I feel would grow and work well for the people. If anyone has any information or contacts which they would care to contribute to my cause please feel free to email me. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Matt Heinold maheinold21@gmail.com

Cash for Work Seen as a Double Edged Sword (IPS - 11/10/2010)

All across Haiti, United Nations, bilateral and non-governmental agencies are running scores of "cash-for-work" programmes. But are they "working"? The humanitarian agencies that run the $5-a-day job programmes [see Sidebar 1] claim they helped "relaunch" the economy and now are supporting "reconstruction and disaster risk reduction, increas[ing] the sustainability of agricultural rehabilitation and stimulat[ing] the local economy," to quote the World Food Programme (WFP). "The idea is to increase the amount of agricultural land in the countryside so that people can earn more from their land," Stephanie Tremblay, WFP communications officer, told Haiti Grassroots Watch.
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And where people are clearing roads or rubble or building canals, there are tangible effects, although some are temporary [see Sidebar 2]. But other effects are more lasting. The jobs programmes – employing somewhere between 5,000 and 50,000 people a day, although nobody seems to know for sure – do much more than inject cash into the economy. Not unexpectedly, this kind of deal engenders some corruption and favouritism, as local "strong men" or political leaders pass out jobs in exchange for kickbacks or votes. But these kinds of concerns are minor compared with other consequences. "The main impact of cash-for-work is on the circulation of money," noted Haitian economist Gerald Chéry, adding that whereas the programme was helpful immediately following the Jan. 12 earthquake, today it is having a perverse effect because people use their money mostly to buy imported food, or items – again, mostly imported – to hawk on the street.
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Over half of the food Haitians eat is imported. In 2008, Haiti imported almost $1 billion in goods and services from the U.S. alone, spending some $325 million on food. "We need the money to circulate in Haiti, not leave Haiti to go to another country. The money needs to stay in Haiti so that it will create work," Chéry said, adding that to be useful, job programmes need to be tied into a vertically integrated economic effort. Another problem is that in the countryside, the programmes – which are supposedly targeting earthquake refugees – appear to be drawing peasants off the land. Agronomist Philippe Céloi, who supervises a six-month Catholic Relief Services programme in the south, admitted that most of his 468 workers were local peasants, not refugees from the capital.
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"After six months there will be benefits – not only the workers have gotten a salary but also the community benefits," Céloi said. Asked about farmers' fields however, Céloi admitted there was a downside. "These people are not doing the planting they ought to be doing. Right now it's bean season… And they aren't planting potatoes or manioc or sorghum, so when this programme ends, there is going to be a problem," he said. But there is another impact that has become increasingly troubling to observers and even some implementers. The American Refugee Committee recently had about 1,500 people a day working at camps in the capital. "We helped people get immediate cash, as well as to help them get some things done within neighbourhoods and communities," said Deb Ingersoll, ARC Cash-for-Work Coordinator.
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But like economist Chéry, Ingersoll thinks it is time for the programmes to stop, and she has another concern. "I worry that we're creating maybe a bad work ethic because I think that you see a lot of cash-for-work teams all over the city and the country and if you watch, those work teams aren't necessarily… working," she noted. "I worry that we're providing… a visual association of working with not necessarily working hard." And this is only part of the negative effect the programmes seem to be having. Following the earthquake, in addition to providing much- needed emergency goods and services, humanitarian agencies spread out across Haiti, even into areas that weren't really affected. Many have now set up shop in places like Les Cayes or Hinche, and now provide basic services, jobs and food.
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Romel François, who used to be a street vendor and who now manages the cash-for-work teams at a camp in the capital, said he thinks the non-governmental organisations should take over Haiti. "Our future lies with NGOs! We can't count on the government. If it were for the government, we would be dead already," he said. In the countryside, Wilson Pierre, who heads the Perèy Peasant Association and is running a 600-job programme, said that "whatever programme that comes our way, we'll do it. If it's work, and we get paid, we'll do it… I think these jobs should be permanent." These attitudes are "very concerning", economist Camille Chalmers told Haiti Grassroots Watch. "This system of 'humanitarian economy' or 'emergency economy'… is locking the country into a 'humanitarian approach' and a dependency on aid." And as people become more dependent, they become less engaged in their communities.
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"There is a growing disconnect between what people think they can do as citizens because more and more roles are being played by NGOs and international actors in all domains... [and] it also legitimises the presence of international actors in all the domains," Chalmers added. "International actors" have been in Haiti for almost a century, and they have been active in both the economic and political spheres. Chalmers and others are troubled to note that sometimes cash-for-work programmes tie the two spheres together. A recent audit obtained by Haiti Grassrsoots Watch makes it clear.
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The USAID Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), which through Jun. 30 had spent over $20 million on cash-for-work programmes, had as its primary goals to "support the Government of Haiti, promote stability, and decrease chances of unrest". In a letter attached to the audit, Robert Jenkins, acting director of USAID-Haiti and AID/OTI, reiterated that the primary goal was not rubble-removal, it was "stability", and he added that the programmes were "clearly branded as a Government of Haiti initiative". In an election year, this heavily favours the incumbent party and its candidates. Cash-for-work "is a double-edged sword, which doesn't do anything for the country, and which can even cause damage," said Adeline Augustin, a journalist from Radio Voice of the Peasant in Papaye and one of the Haiti Grassroots Watch journalists who carried out a three-week investigation into cash-for-work. "We need a sustainable economic plan based on national production." (IPS/Haiti Grassroots Watch)

Made in Haiti - A Good Thing? (Mennonite Central Committee)

by Alexis Erkert Depp
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If you’re wearing Gap, Calvin Klein or Levi Strauss jeans there’s a chance that I’ve met the worker that made your belt loops or your waistband. If you’ve recently bought Hanes underwear or a Maidenform bra, check the label. Was it made in Haiti? If not, the next pair you buy probably will be. As part of an effort to help Haiti rebuild its economy after the earthquake, the U.S. Congress passed legislation in May of this year to extend U.S. trade preferences to Haiti through 2020 and nearly triple duty-free quotas for Haitian garment exports to the U.S. Last month the World Bank, Haiti and the U.S. signed an agreement with a South Korean clothing producer, Sae-A to build another free-trade garment assembly factory in Haiti.
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Garment assembly plants that employ low-wage laborers in poor countries have been seen as a powerful strategy for economic development for several decades. But who really benefits from these factories? In August, I visited CODEVI, a free trade zone made up of 6 garment assembly factories in Ounaminthe, in Haiti’s North-East Department on the border with the Dominican Republic. A free trade zone is an area of a country where normal trade barriers such as tariffs and quotas are eliminated and bureaucratic requirements, like minimum wage laws, are lowered in hopes of attracting businesses and foreign investments. Attracting foreign investment in this way was part of Haiti’s “Poverty Reduction Strategy” plan prior to the earthquake and continues to be a priority now for the Haitian government, the world’s International Financial Institutions, donor countries and, of course, multinational companies looking to capitalize on Haiti’s high unemployment and cheap labor. Note that this list of advocates doesn’t include Haitian factory workers, most of whom work full-time and remain in poverty.
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Yannick Etienne is the director of the Haitian workers rights’ organization, Batay Ouvriye and tirelessly advocates for workers’ basic rights. Etienne believes, “It is evident that this model of development with free trade zones as its backbone for creating jobs is a failure. It creates wealth for the foreign investors and local factory owners but more misery for the workers. It’s a model that sacrifices the future of our youth and puts our country in a more dependent framework. That type of international aid won’t bring the change Haitian people envisioned for themselves.” I spoke to some of the workers from the factories in Ounaminthe during their lunch hour. Thousands of workers were crowded under make-shift tin roofs in the 95 degree heat, eating their main meal of the day, diri Miami (imported rice) and sos pwa (bean sauce).
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These workers are barely scraping by. They have a union and have succeeded in demanding a pay raise. They have also succeeded in getting factory owners to hire a Haitian doctor. Nevertheless, they must meet the taxing quota of 4,000 units a week to make 800 gourdes ($20.00 U.S.) a week, which is less than the legal Haitian minimum wage. If they don’t meet weekly quotas, they are paid 600 gourdes ($15.00). They spend more than $10.00 a week just to feed their families. Higher-paid staff and supervisors are mostly Dominican. The free trade zone employs approximately 6,000 workers, most of whom are younger than 35 years old. 75% of the workforce is women and workers report that sexual harassment is common. Workers are not provided with filtered drinking water and are docked a ¼ of a week’s pay if they miss a single day of work. Workers tell me that they hope for a better future for their children, but that they themselves don’t have any other options.
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The economy in and around Ounaminthe is depressed. It is in one of the most fertile agricultural areas of Haiti and yet rice farmers in nearby Ferier cannot sell more than 3,000 tons of rice this year because of Dominican trade barriers on imported rice and an influx of food aid post-earthquake. Meanwhile, factory workers eat “Miami rice” because it’s cheaper. Support for this kind of economic growth in Haiti is complex. No-one can argue that Haiti doesn’t need more jobs. The production for export factories employ approximately 25,000 Haitians and that number is growing. But, most Haitians would argue that production for export is not a sustainable long-term solution to the country’s lagging economy. According to Camille Chalmers, Executive director of the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA), “Free trade zones are not a good way to advance economic growth in general because working conditions are poor and this kind of activity has almost no connection to the rest of the country’s economy. It is also unreliable [as a long-term source for employment].”
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Although these types of garment factories have provided consumers with increasingly cheap clothes and other goods and have enabled multinational companies to post record profits, as a development model it has repeatedly failed in Haiti and the rest of Latin America to improve the living conditions of the majority of people. This was abundantly clear to me in my visit to Ounaminthe. Young and able-bodied workers there are working full-time for a wage that will never allow them to break out of the cycle of poverty. The Haitian government doesn’t fully benefit from taxes because CODEVI is a free trade zone. Haitian shipping companies don’t benefit because materials are shipped in and out from the Dominican Republic. The local economy is weakened as it becomes increasingly dependent on the whims of an external market. It’s clear that long-term, the true beneficiaries are not Haitians but rather the companies that own the factories and us, as consumers.
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If the Haitian economy is increasingly dependent on cheap labor for growth, it is as much because we want to pay less for our jeans as it is because clothing companies are making a profit. If we truly believe that all human beings have equal rights, then we have a responsibility to support local economic development in Haiti that is determined by and for Haitians. Haitians tell me they want jobs that are sustainable and that will provide them with living wages. On our part, support for this kind of development can begin with ethical and informed consumption.
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As I watched the thousands of workers crossing the bridge on their way back to work after their lunch break, I wondered whether I would be willing to pay a higher price for my jeans so that others could live a life of dignity and well-being. So, the question is: Who makes your jeans? Alexis Erkert Depp coordinates MCC Haiti’s advocacy program.

Workers flock to clothing factories as industrial park reopens

The Miami Herald
BY JIM WYSS AND JACQUELINE CHARLES
jwyss@MiamiHerald.com
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PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Of all the places in Haiti in which to have the world cave in around you, perhaps none was safer than the Sonapi Industrial Park. When the Jan. 12 earthquake leveled much of the city, it killed more than 100,000 people, but not a single person working in the 158-acre industrial park died that day, although many lost family members.
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Now Sonapi may deliver another miracle: steady employment. While much of the city is still reeling from the earthquake that demolished industries, paralyzed the banking sector and snarled shipping, Sonapi -- which has 47 factories and 15,000 employees -- is quietly coming back to life.
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All but one of its factories, known for exporting duty-free garments to the United States, reopened this week, almost half the workers are back on the job and hundreds more gathered outside to clamor for grueling work that pays less than $7 a day.
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The reopening of Sonapi, and the banks in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, are signs that this battered nation is ever so slowly beginning the long road back from the devastation the massive quake left behind, officials say.
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Richard Coles, who owns a garment factory in the industrial park, said Haiti's private sector has been wrestling with a dilemma during the past 10 days on whether to open as they were out performing rescues, and providing food and water to earthquake victims. But after 10 days ``you could see the people were back to business, they were starting to sell food, whatever they could. We decided last week we had to be a lot more responsible and get back to work.
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``It makes sense; long-term humanitarian [aid] doesn't. It's only jobs and consumers. That's what will make the difference,'' he said. ``While the international community and the government are really fighting to help people to get food, we definitely need to play our part.''
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Georges Sassine, president of the Manufacturers Association in Haiti, said the sector employed a total of 28,000 workers -- not just in the Sonapi complex. He said it was critical to call employees back to work. ``The goal is to bring people back to their normal lives as quickly as possibly, and getting their jobs back is part of it,'' said Sassine, who is also responsible for implementing the U.S. Congress-approved duty-free HOPE legislation benefiting the garment industry.
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Reviled by some as a sweatshop for international companies, the industrial park is likely to be key to Haiti's recovery. Before the earthquake flattened the nation's already battered economy, garments represented about 91 percent of all of Haiti's exports to the United States. And almost two-thirds of the nation's garment industry is concentrated inside the compound.
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One of those factories, DKDR-Haiti, churns out 40,000 suit coats and 30,000 pants per month, for companies such as Jos. A. Bank and Lou Levy and Sons. Virtually all of the clothing is exported to the United States, including Miami, said company president DK Lee.
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``Fortunately, most of our workers were here at the time of the earthquake,'' which hit just before 5 p.m., Lee said. ``And this structure is strong.''
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Unlike the heavy concrete-and-beam buildings that toppled throughout the capital, most of the factories in the duty-free zone are made of relatively light steel and zinc.
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While the buildings escaped serious damage, business did not. As news spread about how the earthquake had destroyed the principal pier in Port-au-Prince, toppling massive gantry cranes into the water, jittery customers moved orders to factories in Central America and elsewhere.
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DKDR responded by taking cargo overland to the Dominican Republic for shipment.``My customers have been very understanding,'' said Lee, who moved his enterprise from the Dominican Republic to Haiti after the United States dropped tariffs on Haitian garment exports in 2007. ``And they were willing to accept additional freight costs.''
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Even so, Lee said he's hopeful shipping will resume from Port-au-Prince next week. Although the port has been partially repaired, it is being used exclusively for shipments of humanitarian assistance and aid, as the international community has been struggling to bring enough supplies into the nation.
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Lionel Desir, the principal advisor to the free-trade zone's director, said too much is riding on the enterprise to keep it paralyzed for long. Before the earthquake struck, there were plans in the works to bring in more factories that could boost employment to 25,000 workers.
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``We are already the biggest employer in the country,'' he said. ``It's important that we expand.''

Viettel set to take 70% stake in Teleco

Vietnamese military-owned fixed, mobile and broadband operator Viettel Corporation has placed the sole qualifying bid for a majority stake in Haitian state-run fixed line provider Telecommunications d’Haiti (Teleco). Viettel has offered USD59 million for 70% of equity in the struggling telco, although a potential stumbling block to completing the deal is that the Central Bank of Haiti (Banque de la Republique d’Haiti or BRH) only offered 60% of Teleco for sale as part of a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP). Haiti’s Council of Modernisation of Public Enterprises (CMEP) deemed the Vietnamese technical bid to be the most suitable, whilst rejecting two shortlisted bids from Haitian GSM network operators Digicel Haiti, backed by Jamaica-based Digicel Group, and Comcel (Voila), owned by US-based Trilogy International Partners, which also operates in neighbouring Dominican Republic under the Viva brand. Although full reasons for the decision were not announced, a major factor is sure to have been Viettel’s experience in operating fixed line and broadband networks in addition to its GSM services. Viettel’s investment proposals for Haiti include installing a 2,000km fibre-optic network to extend broadband internet access to provincial towns. Director of CMEP, Yves Bastien, said that the ownership transaction should be completed in April 2010, creating a new company including 2G/3G mobile assets, which is expected to become profitable within three years. Viettel has already expanded its operations to Cambodia and Laos, and it was recently revealed that it may place a bid for Bangladeshi cellco Teletalk.
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A special bid evaluation committee of CMEP announced Viettel as the sole qualified bidder on 30 December 2009 following a process which began in June. 32 companies based in around twenty countries expressed an initial interest, with a shortlist of three emerging from six potential bidders, according to Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste. However, the committee pointed out that for the World Bank-assisted PPP project to be successful, the BRH, CMEP and Viettel must now negotiate a mutually acceptable deal, especially regarding the discrepancy between Viettel’s 70% offer and the 60% earmarked for privatisation. Viettel would also inherit Teleco’s outstanding debts to the BRH, estimated at over USD30 million; currently the national PTO is only remaining operational via a monthly injection of around USD1.5 million from the national bank. Teleco recently shed approximately two-thirds of its workforce to increase efficiency in preparation for privatisation; local reports suggest that some former employees have experienced problems in receiving redundancy payments.

Haiti Experiences a Hotel Boom (1/8/2010)

Within the elegant brick walls of the new hillside Oasis, locals dine on lobster, sip $300-a-bottle Dom Perignon, then relax in a sleek lounge.
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Just outside, the skeleton of an exclusive boutique hotel, featuring a rooftop helipad and 300-car garage, dominates the pastel orange landscape.
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It could be a scene out of Coral Gables or South Beach. But it's not.
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An unprecedented trade mission to Haiti later this week will produce significant investments and desperately needed jobs for the country, former President Bill Clinton announced Tuesday at the Americas Conference.
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``A number of commitments have already been made,'' Clinton, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, told several hundred Latin American and Caribbean business and community leaders attending the 13th annual Americas Conference. ``It's not appropriate for me to announce them. The people who are going should do the announcing.''
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Clinton used an appearance at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables to give what he called his ``progress report'' on Haiti since U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked him to devote a year to helping a storm-ravaged Haiti rebuild and attract investments.

Some vacationers Jet Ski, lounge on beach chairs and gorge at the buffet. Others hunt souvenirs in the nearby market or soar across the sky on a zip line linking lush mountains. Right here, in Haiti.
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Miami's Royal Caribbean Cruises has extended the palm-lined beach, put in a roller coaster and constructed an 800-foot pier -- a nearly $55 million investment that is fueling hope that this troubled nation can finally achieve the elusive goal of becoming a tourist getaway once more.

A decade after Haiti's only U.S. hotel franchise removed its marquee from a downtown Port-au-Prince building, the Caribbean nation is preparing to welcome its first international hotel brand.
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Choice Hotels International, owners of Comfort Inn, is franchising its brand to two hotels in touristy Jacmel, a quaint seaside town in southeast Haiti known for its spell-binding carnival and viewed as Haiti's arts capital.
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Later this month, construction is expected to begin on a 120-room boutique hotel, the Belle Rive, that will become part of Choice Hotels' Ascend Collection. In May, the Cap Lamandou, a 32-room hotel on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean sea, will become a Comfort Inn.
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Both hotels are owned by a group of Haitian-American investors, whose 60 shareholders range from doctors to lawyers to engineers living in New York, Chicago and Miami.
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``It's an opportunity for Choice to be on the front end of what our franchisee calls the Haiti renaissance,'' Brian Parker, vice president of emerging markets and new business developments for Choice Hotels International, told The Miami Herald. ``We know their tourism industry is going to turn for the better and we want to be a part of that.''
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The investment by both Choice Hotels and the Haitian-American investors, known by the acronym SIMACT, comes as investment-hungry Haiti experiences a wave of optimism being led by its hotel industry. After years of instability and political infighting the country is experiencing relative calm that is leading to tens of millions of dollars in investments in new hotels, expansions and renovations.
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In addition to Choice Hotels, Best Western is bringing its upscale brand to a project in Port-au-Prince, and the Hilton has had boots on the ground as a group of local hoteliers attempt to woo it to two new hotel projects taking shape.
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All are happening as Haiti's tourism ministry and international supporters push to make it a tourism destination. The international airport in Port-au-Prince was recently upgraded to include jetways and escalator, Haitian lawmakers just approved a Venezuela-financed plan to revamp the airport in Cap-Haitien to transform it into a robust international facility and Royal Caribbean is anchoring the world's largest cruise ship off its northern coast in Labadee. ``Choice opens up the world for us,'' said Jean-Marie Wolff, chief financial officer for SIMACT. Whereas investors previously were targeting the Haitian-American diaspora, Wolff says the Choice brand means that they can now ``afford to think of a larger audience.'' Wolff said the Belle Rive is part of a $47 million mixed-use development project on 23 acres featuring a marina, tennis courts, 150-seat movie theater and townhouse-style condos priced between $150,000 and $350,000 -- all located inside a gated community overlooking the Bay of Jacmel.
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Since its founding in 1996, SIMACT -- Societe Immobiliere d'Agriculture, de Commerce, et de Tourisme -- has grown from six to about 60 shareholders. Based in New York, it has expanded its portfolio from real estate development to mining.
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``I'm excited about the potential in terms of what Haiti is going to be in a few years from now,'' Parker said. Parker -- who first visited Haiti last year and stayed at the newly opened Karibe Hotel and Convention Center in Port-au-Prince and later attended the grand opening of the Oasis, a newly opened restaurant and soon-to-be boutique hotel -- said he's impressed with what Haiti's independent hoteliers have done.
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``You hear all of the negatives about Haiti, political instability, crime, poverty. It exceeded my expectations in terms of what I saw,'' he said. ``I was really impressed with the commitment of the entrepreneurs . . . you can [envision] the Karibe in South Beach. You can tell when you walk in that hotel; it can be in Chicago, Miami. I was really impressed with the hotel's infrastructure.''
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He was equally impressed, he said, with the still under construction and yet to be branded-Oasis. Still, there is nothing like a brand to attract new visitors, and access to Choice Hotels International's reservation systems and $175 million marketing budget, Parker said, ``creates opportunity for the majority of these independent hotels to . . . help drive occupancy.'' Would Holiday Inn, which abandoned the nation in 1999 return? "It's a new story with Haiti,'' said Fred Pierre-Louis, owner of the Plaza Hotel in Port-au-Prince that for almost 20 years was known as the Holiday Inn. "Before it was keep Haiti at a distance policy. Now the idea seems to be to try to get jobs and movement in Haiti.'' He may consider approaching the Holiday Inn about returning to Haiti.

Choice Hotels International Plans to Open Hotel in Haiti

The Silver Spring-based hotel franchiser is opening a Comfort Inn hotel in Haiti’s historic Jacmel this year, and will open an Ascend Collection hotel later, as part of Jacmel’s Belle Rive project, which also includes retail, dining and residential developments and a marina.
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The hotels will be owned by New York-based SIMACT, Inc., a company founded y Haitian investors in 1996 to invest in Haitian real estate and tourism projects.
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“The new collaborative relationship between Choice Hotels and SIMACT will have a significantly positive impact on the burgeoning tourism industry of the southeastern coast of Haiti,” said SIMACT president Lesly Kernisant in a statement.
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Choice launched its Ascend Collection, a network of historic and boutique member hotels, in 2008.
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Choice Hotels (NYSE: CHH) franchises more than 6,000 hotels. Its other brands include Roadway Inn, Econo Lodge and Cambria Suites.

Venezuelan-Cuban Firm to Build Airport in Cap Haitian

PORT-AU-PRINCE – Haitian authorities confirmed on Friday that a Venezuelan-Cuban firm will build a modern, international airport in the northern city of Cap-Haitien.Public Works Minister Ronald Baudin said the government will take all necessary steps to monitor the infrastructure project, whose $33 million cost will be financed through a loan from Venezuela on favorable terms.
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“The government has been assured that no irregularities will mar the handling” of these funds, the official added.The agreement with Caracas was unanimously approved Tuesday by Haiti’s National Assembly.The lawmakers approved the loan despite concerns about whether all proper procedures were followed in selecting the company, whose name has not been made public.
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The chairman of the Finance Committee in the lower house, Jean-Marcel Numerant, questioned whether the company that is to carry out the work was chosen on the basis of a fair and competitive selection process.
Officials said the new airport’s runway will be built on a 2,652-meter (8,695-foot) surface area and will receive international flights. The terminal also reportedly will be equipped with modern air-traffic control and safety systems.
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It will take 18 months to build the facility, although no specific date has been given for the start of construction or for when the new airport for Haiti’s second city will begin operating. Haiti currently has just one international airport, the Toussaint L’Ouverture, which is located on the northern outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
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During a recent visit to the country in October, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, said a new international airport in Cap-Haitien was badly needed to boost tourism development in the region.

New 10 Megwatt Generator Added, Increases Power Generation

Haitian Economic Development Foundation Announces That Sogener, One of Haiti’s Largest Independent Power Producers (IPP), Adds Capacity with New 10- Megawatt Generator (Benzinga Staff)
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Posted on 12/21/09 at 12:08pm by Benzinga Staff
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti--(BUSINESS WIRE)--
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Sogener S.A., one of Haiti’s largest independent Power Producers (IPP), and a founding member of the Haitian Economic Development Foundation, today announced that it will expand its power production capabilities with the addition of a new 10-Megawatt Generator. The increased capacity will be on-line January, 2010.
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The additional capacity helps address the chronic energy shortage in Port-Au-Prince. These shortages have become increasingly more severe because of a drought that has impacted the Peligre Hydroelectric Plant. “The additional supply represents, on average, a three-hour reduction in black-out time for Port-Au-Prince,” says Jean Marie Vorbe, President and CEO of Sogener S.A. “With black-out times averaging 12 hours per day in the capital, severely impacting resident’s abilities to function, the increased capacity ostensibly reduces that time by a third.”
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Founded in 2002 under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Electricité d'Haïti, the government-owned electric utility, Sogener owns and operates energy generating facilities in four different locations throughout Haiti. Using the latest technology and equipment, Sogener’s sophisticated 1.5 Megawatt and 2.0 Megawatt Cummins Mobile Power Modules deliver electricity to Electricité d'Haïti, who then distributes the power to more than three million customers throughout the country.
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“Reliable power is one of the pillars of economic development,” adds Vorbe. “As Haiti continues its drive to increase its infrastructure capabilities so as to drive both domestic and international commerce, investors must be confident in the country’s ability to produce power. At Sogener, we are proud to be an integral part of Haiti’s ongoing industrial evolution.”
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“The need for dependable power supplies is one of Haiti’s most compelling needs, so the additional capacity of this 10-Megawatt generator is imperative to our country,” adds Youri Mevs, President of the newly-formed Haitian Economic Development Foundation. “Sogener, along with all of Jean Marie Vorbe’s enterprises, are crucial elements of Haiti’s long-term success.”
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About Sogener S.A: Founded in 2002, Sogener is one of three independent power producers (IPP) in Haiti. It is a wholly-owned part of the Vorbe Group, one of Haiti’s largest enterprises. Vorge Group holdings include VF Construction, VM Matériaux, Group Jean Vorbe Foundation, and Sogener. For additional information, log onto www.sogener.com.
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About the Haitian Economic Development Foundation: The newly-formed Haitian Economic Development Foundation was designed to foster economic growth throughout Haiti. The a-political Foundation is comprised of some of the nation’s most influential enterprises and individuals, with the singular goal of attracting and fostering business in Haiti.
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Haitian Economic Development Foundation
Press Contact Haiti:
Vladimir Laborde, 011-509-3729-4325
vladimirlaborde@yahoo.com
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Press Contact USA:
Kreps DeMaria PR
Israel Kreps or Ana Maria Colmenares, 1-305-663-3543
ikreps@krepspr.com
acolmenares@krepspr.com

Hoteliers Leading Investment Charge in Haiti of Tomorrow

BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
jcharles@MiamiHerald.com
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PETIONVILLE, Haiti -- Within the elegant brick walls of the new hillside Oasis, locals dine on lobster, sip $300-a-bottle Dom Perignon, then relax in a sleek lounge. Just outside, the skeleton of an exclusive boutique hotel, featuring a rooftop helipad and 300-car garage, dominates the pastel orange landscape.
It could be a scene out of Coral Gables or South Beach. But it's not.
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``I have folks say to me: `You'll never think you are in Haiti,' '' said Jerry Tardieu, 42, the visionary behind the Oasis in this Port-au-Prince suburb. ``I tell them, `It is Haiti. It's the Haiti of tomorrow.'
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Five years after Haiti plunged into lawlessness, this investment-hungry nation is riding a wave of improved security and relative calm. The result: a renewed sense of investor confidence by an unlikely crowd -- the local business elite. The hotel industry is leading the charge. Within walking distance of the Oasis, an upscale Best Western is rising, soon to become the country's first new international-brand hotel in a decade.
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``We are now willing to invest our money and effort in this nation,'' said Christopher Handal, 36, president of the Haitian-family-run company that is behind the Best Western venture. Often despised for their opposition to the government and highfalutin lifestyle, Haitian business leaders are now joining with President René Préval to recruit foreign investors. Among those heeding the call: Vietnamese looking to invest in the state-run telephone company and Brazilians interested in manufacturing clothing.
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The change comes as Haiti's international supporters, led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, call on the Caribbean nation to encourage the kinds of investments that create jobs. ``The approach of the private sector, the way we perceive the government, it's all totally different today,'' Richard Coles, a Haitian manufacturer, told an audience of hemispheric business leaders during a Haiti investment seminar at a Miami conference last week.
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``Mentalities are changing in Haiti,'' he said. ``There is a new synergy, a new enthusiasm.''
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Only four years ago, a surge of kidnappings and violence had the wealthy in the hills of Petionville packing for Miami and Montreal. But in recent months, the area has welcomed:
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• The Karibe Hotel & Convention Center. First conceived in 1996 by owner Richard Buteau, it was finally completed in February 2008. Family-owned, Karibe boasts a luxury spa, a lush courtyard and 87 rooms, including a presidential suite designed by Miami artist Romero Britto for its first guest: Clinton.
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• The expansion of the Montana. One of Haiti's most well-known hotels, it has undergone several expansions since it was built in 1947. The latest involved replacing the tennis courts with an expansive commercial mall featuring designer shops, a wedding chapel and an infinity pool offering a breathtaking mountain view.
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The center of Haiti's chattering classes, the hotel welcomes the competition, said Garthe Cardozo-Stefanson, a hotel co-owner. ``It sends the signal that Haiti has changed directions,'' she said.
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• The renovation of El Rancho. Faced with the possibility of bankruptcy, the family of this private home-turned-hotel and casino recently sold controlling interest to a new group of investors. They are drawing up new plans and hope to attract a Hilton franchise. In 2002, Hilton planned to invest in Haiti but pulled out as the country descended into turmoil.
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• The Oasis Complex. The L-shaped, $19 million multi-use development was once the site of Haiti's landmark Le Picardie restaurant, which in its heyday hosted Marlon Brando and Walter Cronkite. Builders kept the original brick walls, which today feature the designs of Haitian architect Nadine Hippolyte and are festooned with well-stocked mahogany wine racks. Exterior wood walkways lead past a lush tropical garden to a South Beach-inspired lounge.
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The most unique feature isn't the sold-out, high-end office space but the ability of travelers to avoid the traffic-clogged streets of Port-au-Prince by shuttling from airport to hotel rooftop aboard a helicopter. Travel time: 10 minutes.
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Tardieu is proud that the Oasis is blossoming with money from 100 Haitian investors, ranking from schoolteachers to business titans -- ``not a dime from foreign investors.'' ``Just look around Petionville and you see how much money Haitian investors are pouring into big buildings, whether they be supermarkets, banks or other financial buildings,'' he said.
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Gladys Coupet, Citibank's manager for Haiti and the chairwoman of a presidential commission on competition, said ``there is a determination both locally and from the international community that Haiti has to make progress.'' Although progress has been made -- for instance, it now takes 75 days instead of 195 to form a company -- Haiti still must work to shed its reputation for offering an abysmal business climate.
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In a ranking of business-friendly countries, Haiti recently moved up three spots, but it is still 151st out of 183 --just ahead of Tajikistan, according to a recent World Bank study. The United States wants to see Haiti pass legislation to protect investors and make it easy for Haitian Americans to start businesses in their homeland. They also want to see long-held monopolies dismantled and competition welcomed.
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Haiti's economic elite have long been criticized for looking out for themselves and doing the bare minimum to foster economic development, but that's a bum rap, said Reginald Boulos, head of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a federation of 10 regional chambers.``The notion that the private sector in Haiti has been on the sidelines is false,'' said Boulos, who is courting the Hilton chain to take over the El Rancho project. ``The Haitian private sector has also been a victim of the instability of the last 20 years and is poorer today than it was 20 years ago.'' He blames the politicians for ``creating such a bad environment for any investment.''
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But the new alliance between the economic and political elite was evident last week when powerful Haitian businessman Edouard Baussan and the country's leading shippers used the Miami conference to highlight Haiti's progress. Sitting at the head table: recently installed Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who received a standing ovation following his ``Haiti-is-open-for-business'' speech. ``People have started to want to believe in Haiti,'' said businessman Gregory Mevs. ``We've said to ourselves, `We as the private sector have a responsibility to deliver.' ''

World's Largeat Cruise Boat Makes First Trip to Haiti (12/5/2009

The world's largest cruise ship has made the Western Hemisphere's poorest country its first port of call. Royal Caribbean's 16-deck, 225,000-ton Oasis of the Seas was steaming back from the company's private Labadee port in northern Haiti on its maiden voyage Friday. The massive craft and some 4,000 passengers were met by Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and other officials Thursday and treated to folk dances, music and art. The ship took advantage of a new pier at the guarded compound in a secluded turquoise bay a short drive from Haiti's second-largest city. Haiti hopes a $100 million, 25-year effort by Royal Caribbean to improve the cruise port will help rebuild tourism and bring investment to the impoverished country's north.

Freestar Dominicana and UniCarte Launch Prepaid Platform

Rahaxi's Telco platform to process electronic Pin and Recharge for main carriers in Haiti, gross revenues could potentially top US $24 million in the first year.
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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Dec. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Rahaxi Inc. today announced that its wholly owned subsidiary Freestar Dominicana has entered into a partnership agreement with UniCarte, a division of UNIBANK Haiti. The partnership is based on a 50/50 profit-sharing agreement on the sales of electronic pins and recharge/top-up transactions for telecommunication companies in Haiti, such as Digicel, Comcell, and Haititel. The first phase which required loading the prepaid application on to 600 terminals has been completed, and it is envisaged the application will be loaded to an additional 2000 terminals in the coming months. By partnering with Freestar Dominicana, UniCarte now has access to a prepaid platform that includes industry-leading guidelines, the highest product standards, a secure environment, and an enhanced technology infrastructure that provides UniCarte with substantial flexibility to develop value added applications and services for its merchants.
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Paul Egan Chief Executive Officer of Rahaxi Inc. said, "Teaming up with UniCarte to provide all the platform technology is an exciting development for our company and will enable us to further expand our presence in Latin America and the Caribbean." Egan added, "Given the almost 100% usage of pre-paid air time for cell phones in this region, we believe that gross revenue for the partnership could potentially yield approximately two million dollars per month or twenty four million dollars per year and increasing as more terminals are deployed."
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Patrick Cleopatra, Vice President of UniCarte stated: "We are excited and look forward to the success of this partnership with Freestar Dominicana. This partnership reflects our desire to collaborate with companies that share our vision of growth in Haiti. UniCarte's high end merchant portfolio can now rapidly expand with this partnership and our pre-paid products can now reach the whole country giving our merchants alternative revenue streams via GPS Fixed line and internet terminals."
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Rahaxi Inc. provides mission-critical solutions to the financial industry worldwide. Working with merchants and acquirers in more than twenty countries, its product suite has empowered partners to focus on their core competencies, while its innovative driven approach has enabled them to benefit from first to market advantage and realize their true potential. Rahaxi Inc. has adopted a partnership strategy for growth. Its partners are market leaders in their respective industries. These include IKEA, Finnair and Stockmann. Its subsidiaries, Rahaxi Processing Oy., Finland, FreeStar Technologies Ireland, Ltd., and FreeStar Dominicana S.A. Dominican Republic, continue to develop and implement first class products and solutions that enhance the service level its partners can offer their customers.
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For more information, please visit http://www.rahaxi.com
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Since its inception in July 1993, UNIBANK has emerged as the banking leader in Haiti, striking the imagination, providing innovation, constantly introducing new products and services, and is now called the Bank leader of Haiti. UNIBANK is Haiti's Largest Bank, with assets of US$768 million (as of September 30th, 2008). UNIBANK is Haiti's Bank of Choice, with 723,000 customers in Haiti and 268,000 among Haitians living abroad. It has 1,828 employees and 568 points of service which include 45 branches, 17 Micro Credit National agencies, 3 UniCarte, UniCredit and UniFinance offices, 186 UniTransfer offices and remittance paying-agents throughout Haiti and 317 UniTransfer International offices and agents in the United States, Canada and various countries in the Caribbean.
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For more information, please contact:
Rahaxi Inc.
Mr. Paul Egan
President & CEO
Tel: +1-809-547-2248
p.egan@rahaxi.com

Haiti ready for private investment, new PM says (11/12/2009)

By Joseph Guyler Delva
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) -- Economist Jean-Max Bellerive was sworn in as Haiti's prime minister on Wednesday and said he would work to convince donors that the country was ready for private investment to create jobs. Donor nations pledged in April to provide $324 million over two years to help rebuild the struggling Caribbean state, the poorest in the Americas and one of the most unstable, but they have been slow to deliver the money.
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Bellerive told reporters he hoped to persuade donors "that Haiti has changed, that Haiti is ready to open itself to private investment, that Haiti is ready to give reports on its accountability, on transparency." He replaces Michele Pierre-Louis, who was fired by the Senate on Oct. 30 amid criticism that she failed to improve Haiti's economy and did not do enough to rebuild after a series of devastating hurricanes and storms in 2008.
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At the swearing-in ceremony at the National Palace, Bellerive said creating jobs was "an absolute priority." Jean-Max Bellerive (C) stands with Haitian President Rene Preval (R) and Michele Pierre-Louis during an inauguration ceremony in the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. AFP PHOTO "Haiti will continue to work with all the partners and all the people who believe in stability and who believe the only way we are going to change Haiti is through private investment and through creating jobs in Haiti," he told journalists afterward.
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Haiti has a long history of violence and instability but has recently enjoyed a period of relative calm, thanks in part to the continued presence of UN peacekeepers. Bellerive's approach won praise from the newly formed Haitian Economic Development Foundation. "Our business community is pleased to see that Mr. Bellerive's focus will be to continue furthering the pro-business direction encouraged by President Rene Preval," said the group's president, Youri Mevs.
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"Humanitarian assistance to our country is indeed crucial, but expansion of the business sector in order to create jobs is the long-term solution that will most impact the future of our people," he added. Bellerive previously served as Preval's planning and external cooperation minister and has held positions in governments under at least six different prime ministers over the past two decades.

Investing in Agriculture

You make good points. I am thinking that the government must itself invest in the agricultural sector to promote the cultivation of staple crops such as millet, rice, beans, corn, etc. However, certain crops such as mango francique, coffee, scotch bonnet peppers, and cacao have export potential. Those particular crops could produce livelihoods for rural populations. Capitalizing on that requires better infrastructure though and a better port system.

Agriculture and industry

Clearly the country needs to improve its agriculture as well as developing non-agricultural employment. Your note says:
"Agriculture should be considered a priority sector for investment. While trade will be beneficial to Haiti, we must think more broadly than Port au Prince as urbanization does not neccesarily mean developent. Modernizing the agricultural sector is the only way to have a nation wide impact. First and most importantly, Haiti must be able to feed itself."
There are some contradictions here. Food self-sufficiency seems to have declined as a result both of environmental problems and competition from imported rice, so while you may think it is important, it hardly sounds practicable. I'm not sure that any commercial investors will find Haitian agriculture attractive, given the general state of the country. So donors need to promote small-scale commercial production for local consumption - which presumably means not trying to compete with US rice.
Off-farm employment seems to be where FDI has a role to play - provided the infrastructure and institutional problems can be sorted out.

Fritz, Thank you for your

Fritz,

Thank you for your reply. I will definitely look them up.

Check this organization:

Check this organization: Haiti Lumiere de Demain ( Haiti Light of Tomorrow ) . This organization has been helping a lot of kids in Haiti. I'm a programmer myself, and will travel with this organization in the future to help the kids.

http://www.haitilumiere.org/

Thanks

Fritz

Volunteering in Haiti

Hi,

How does one goes about linking up with organizations doing work in Haiti. I am a computer programmer and I am interested in volunteering some of my vacation time to help out in Haiti (preferably in Technology and/or Agriculture). For I believe those two areas, in terms of development, are very important to Haiti.

Some feedback would be helpful.

Haiti's Readiness for Investment

Haiti has always been ready for investment. Of course, with a lack of political stability and the news of insecurity it may appear that Haiti is not ready. The najor huddle in Haiti's advancement is the political environment, there must be a true separation of powers and each branch respects its limitation of powers. The Haitian parliament also needs to see what is in the best interest of the Republic of Haiti, not their personal interest.

Haiti Donors Conference Agenda

Toward a New Cooperation Paradigm for Growth and Opportunity
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The Inter-American Development Bank will host a Haiti Donors Conference on April 14, 2009 in Washington, D.C. Haitian Prime Minister Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis and IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno will co-chair the meeting, which will bring together leaders from over 30 donor countries and multilateral organizations. The purpose of the Conference is to renew the international partnership with Haiti at a critical juncture and to seek additional support for Haiti's priority reconstruction program.
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Following three consecutive years of economic growth and improved social and political stability, Haiti experienced four major tropical storms as well as spikes in food and fuel prices in 2008. These external shocks undermined the progress that Haiti had achieved and weakened the Haitian population’s already strained coping mechanisms. A renewed and concerted effort from the Haitian government and its international partners is required to regain lost progress and lay a foundation for growth as the global economy recovers. To this end, the Government of Haiti and the donor community agree to intensify efforts to safeguard progress achieved to date; rebuild key infrastructure damaged by the storms; and accelerate the implementation of a priority program within the National Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy.
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The Haitian authorities have outlined a two-year economic recovery program based on four core objectives:
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* Reducing vulnerability to natural disasters
* Revitalizing the economy
* Maintaining access to basic services
* Preserving a stable macro-economic framework
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Development partners will aim to align existing and future aid with the Haitian government’s two-year program, which is grounded in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (2007) and the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (2008). The meeting will also aim to enhance coordination between major stakeholders in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of foreign assistance to Haiti. The April 14th conference was preceded by a technical meeting held in Ottawa in early March, hosted by the Canadian Ministry of International Cooperation with representation by Haitian authorities, the G-10* and Japan.
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At the meeting, the Haitian delegation shared with donors a concept paper outlining their government’s priorities and strategy for recovery along with a governance and budget support framework. The concept paper outlined a course of action for the two-year economic recovery program. Participation in the event is by invitation.
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*The G10 comprises: The IDB, IMF, WB, EU, UN, Canada, France, Spain, the United States, and the 'ABC Group' of Argentina, Brazil and Chile
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Contact information: HConference@iadb.org

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