Haiti leader says he wants to create 500,000 jobs

AP News
Posted: Nov 30, 2011 12:22 AM
Haiti leader says he wants to create 500,000 jobs

Haitian President Michel Martelly wants to create 500,000 jobs in Haiti over the next three years.

Some of the job opportunities will come from a new Marriott hotel planned for Port-au-Prince and a South Korean-run industrial park slated to open next year in the north, both championed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton this week on a two-day visit.

"Haitians don't want a gift," Martelly told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. "They want work."

His comments came on the opening day of an investor forum organized by the William J. Clinton Foundation, Inter-American Development Bank and Martelly administration.

The conference, which wraps up Wednesday, is focused on promoting business opportunities in Haiti that center around apparel, tourism, agriculture and infrastructure.

IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno said up to 1,000 participants from more than 29 countries were participating, including fashion designer Donna Karan and actor Sean Penn, who has been active in Haiti aid projects since the earthquake nearly two years ago.

The forum gave potential investors the chance to learn more about how the Martelly administration wants to create jobs in a troubled nation still trying to recover from the massive earthquake nearly two years ago.

Martelly said his government is working to draft laws that would speed up the paperwork to make it easier to open businesses in Haiti as well as create projects that lure people from the capital and provide services to the countryside.

"The bottom line is that we want investors to profit so that Haiti can prosper," Martelly said in opening remarks at a hotel in the hills above Port-au-Prince.

International companies have long been reluctant to do business in Haiti because of cumbersome laws, heaps of red tape and occasional political unrest. Prospective newcomers must also be willing to accept lower profits because they must spend more on fuel and security, both services the government struggles to provide.

There were small-scale projects signed at the confeence. The Clinton Foundation, IDB and Colombia's National Coffee Federation announced a deal to help around 10,000 Haitian coffee growers make their product more attractive to outside buyers.

"This is the kind of cooperative arrangement that I think will work," Clinton said.

The conference comes as questions linger about the need for an agency that encourages transparency and coordination in Haiti's reconstruction, which may make international donors reluctant to fulfill their pledges to help rebuild the nation.

In October, a Haitian and international panel co-chaired by Clinton dissolved after Haitian officials failed to renew its 18-month mandate.

Clinton told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the decision to create a new panel was in the hands of the Haitian government.

"If they want it to continue, I would be happy to continue, if they want me to continue," Clinton said as he toured a school in Port-au-Prince. "It's their decision."

Prime Minister Garry Conille and a transition team are trying to figure out what shape a new reconstruction commission will take. An earlier request for the panel's mandate to be extended went before parliament but lawmakers, with whom Martelly has been at odds since his May inauguration, took no action.


Associated Press writer Evens Sanon contributed to this report.