Haiti’s president elect, Michel Martelly, recently traveled to Washington. It was a good place to start for the leader of a nation heavily reliant on foreign aid. While much has been reported about his meetings with the World Bank, the IMF, and Secretary Clinton, largely overlooked was the meeting that could prove most important in the long run (Haiti’s New Leader Makes Rounds in Washington; Clinton Gives Support for Haiti’s New President; Washington: First Day of Michel Martelly all the Details).
In an address to representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, potentially a massive source for future private-sector investment, Mr. Martelly delivered a simple message: Haiti is now open for business. More importantly, he noted, he will create the necessary conditions to enable investment. He promised to improve the country’s security and provide the needed infrastructure to sustain economic growth. He also focused on something we take very seriously at Peace Dividend Trust – building confidence in the Haitian marketplace.
That’s an ambitious goal, but within grasp, and the future of Haiti depends on it. Success in Haiti will ultimately depend on the success of its economy, and the cycle of dependence will only be broken when people are put to work, private-sector capacity expands, and the tax base increases.
The enormous reconstruction effort in Haiti is the international community’s opportunity to expedite this long-term goal. Millions of dollars in aid funding could be driven directly into the Haitian economy through local procurement, simultaneously fulfilling humanitarian needs while building up the domestic economy. The positive impact on local businesses and their employees will last well beyond the revitalization effort, and as aid dollars decline, a more robust and stable economy will take their place.
The potential is here. Shelters, plastics, concrete blocks, piping, and many more of the essentials for reconstruction are all produced by local companies with local employees. Peace Dividend Trust’s Marketplace project has registered nearly 2,000 operational, legally compliant companies in Haiti, and many of them are already actively seeking and winning contracts with large international buyers.
Haiti has many needs right now. Creating jobs has to be at the top of the list. Effective reconstruction and long-term stability depend on it.