Ban to push for further investment in Haiti to widen ‘break-out opportunity’

Ban to push for further investment in Haiti to widen ‘break-out opportunity’

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) with former US President Bill Clinton in Haiti on 10 March, 2009 (file)
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said that he will be asking donors to go beyond traditional assistance and invest in Haiti, at a time he called a crucial turning point for the impoverished Caribbean nation.

“This is Haiti’s moment, a break-out opportunity for one of the poorest nations to lift itself toward a future of real economic prospects and genuine hope,” Mr. Ban wrote in an opinion piece published in The New York Times on-line edition.

The Secretary-General, who earlier this month visited Haiti with former United States President Bill Clinton, said that Haiti stands a better chance than almost any emerging economy, not only to weather the current economic storms but to prosper, because of new US trade legislation.

HOPE II, as the act is known, offers Haiti duty-free, quota-free access to US markets for the next nine years. “No other nation enjoys a similar advantage,” Mr. Ban said. “This is a foundation to build on.”

He sees it, he says, as a chance to consolidate the progress the country has made in winning a measure of political stability, with the help of the UN peacekeeping mission, and move to genuine economic development, creating the jobs needed to alleviate the country’s massive unemployment, particularly among youth.

Mr. Ban said he will be advocating investment in Haiti, for these purposes, at an international donor conference to take place next month in Washington

Paul Collier, an Oxford University economist and Mr. Ban’s special adviser on Haiti, has helped the Government devise a strategy to create those jobs, emphasizing the country’s traditional strengths in garments and agricultural production.

The plan calls for the enactment of new regulations lowering port fees (now among the highest in the Caribbean) and creating the sort of industrial clusters that have come to dominate global trade.

It also calls for dramatically expanding the country’s export zones, so that a new generation of textile firms can generate economies of scale, drive down production costs and spark “potentially explosive growth constrained only by the size of the labour pool,” as Mr. Ban put it.

Describing some of the experiences on his recent trip, Mr. Ban recalls visiting a factory in the capital where workers earned $7 a day making T-shirts for export, vaulting them into the Haitian middle class. “Under HOPE II, the owner figures he can double or triple production within a year,” he said.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MINUSTAH) has been working with Haitians for nearly five years towards creating a secure and stable environment within which key reforms and economic development could take place, he stressed.

In related news, today MINUSTAH announced some details of its electoral assistance plan for Haiti’s legislative elections scheduled for 19 April.

With voter registration, printing of ballots and training of electoral workers now completed and some 9,500 polling stations in place, the Mission is now distributing some 100 tons of equipment it received last week.

It said some 4,000 electoral security workers will be on hand to keep the peace on election day in addition to 6,500 UN peacekeepers.

To further assure the success of the elections, MINUSTAH said, it would deploy more than 1800 civilian staff, 11 aircraft, 950 vehicles and some 300 horses and mules.