Author: Antonio Guerrero

NEWSMAKERS: HAITI

By Antonio Guerrero

Haiti’s president Michel Martelly, who took office on May 14, has the unenviable task of rebuilding Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake that killed nearly 300,000 and left some one million people homeless.

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Haiti’s president, Martelly: “Haiti is open for investment”

The natural disaster was followed in October by a cholera epidemic that has claimed the lives of several thousand others in the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation. Martelly expects to rebuild the battered economy by attracting foreign investors.

His plan is aligned with UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon’s strategy of calling on the world’s richest nations to help the poorest ones, including Haiti, emerge from poverty through investments instead of charity. “A measure of any society is how well it looks after its least fortunate; the same is true of the international community,” Moon told attendees at a summit of Lesser Developed Countries in Istanbul in May. “I am not arguing for charity, but investment.” During a pre-inaugural visit to Washington, Martelly’s mantra before legislators and potential investors was that “Haiti is open for investment.” He vowed to offer tax breaks for investors and make it easier to establish companies in Haiti, while also committing to tackling ongoing security problems. With investors complaining about land ownership issues, Martelly proposes to allow the government to intervene in land disputes that present obstacles to key investment projects.

The US’s Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, established by President Obama after the earthquake, announced in May that it was investing $2 million to complete construction of a 130-room hotel project that was halted after last year’s natural disaster. The World Bank’s IFC provided another $7.5 million in financing for the hotel project in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, to be operated by Spanish hotel company Occidental Hotels and Resorts.