Above: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Photo: US Department of State)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Haiti opened the Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti, following a ceremony attended by Haiti President Michel Martelly, former US President Bill Clinton, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno.
“We have been united behind a single goal — making investments in this country’s people and your infrastructure that help put Haiti finally on the path to broad-based economic growth with a more vibrant private sector and less dependence on foreign assistance,” Hillary Clinton said Monday. “And we believe that our work here in Haiti and here in the north is beginning to show results.”
The group was also joined by former Haiti President Rene Preval, who, Hillary Clinton said, “had the will to take this project from dream to reality.”
More than 1,000 Haitians are now working at the park, Clinton said, “many of whom are women who have never held a job in the formal economy before,” though she cautioned that the park was merely one step.
“While jobs are critically important, that is just the beginning,” she said. “In addition to effective government, Haiti needs a strong justice sector, free and fair elections, housing, energy, schools, health care – all of which will serve the people of Haiti, but also attract even more investment.”
The Secretary of State said the US was working with Haiti’s government and a “wide range of public and private partners” on projects across Haiti, including building affordable, disaster-resistant homes with clean running water, along with low-cost loans on home construction supplies and the like.
Haiti’s plans for a new container port are also “moving forward,” she said, with a team of engineers, marine biologists and economists.
Clinton also addressed the opposition to the project that has come from some fronts.
“No one should have any illusion that this is a perfect project,” she said. “What development project anywhere in the world is? And there will be frustration from time to time. But for all of the inevitable challenges today the development here represents a new opportunity for Haiti — and I am grateful that the people and the government of Haiti are prepared to see this.”
“Last November, President Martelly invited us to Caracol to lay the cornerstone of a new industrial park which he envisioned as the engine for development of Haiti’s Grand Nord,” Moreno said. “Today, less than one year later, the Caracol Industrial Park is a reality.”
Before the inauguration ceremony, Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe met with business leaders including Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson and Digicel CEO Denis O’Brien in a meeting of those interested in Haiti’s economic and social development.
“I repeat,” Martelly said Monday, “that Haiti is open for business irreversibly.”
The President said that his oft-repeated phrase, “Haiti is open for business,” was “more than a slogan — it’s a thoughtful policy that the government will continue unabated — and we invite you all to contribute.”