May 23, 2009

Clinton's Appointment as UN Special Envoy for Haïti is a Good Decision

I strongly support United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's appointment of former United States President Bill Clinton as the United Nations Special Envoy for Haïti. I agree with Mr. Ban when he said Mr. Clinton "will bring energy, dynamism and focus to the task of mobilizing international support for Haïti's economic recovery and reconstruction." President Clinton has a clear understanding of the challenges facing Haïti and he will bring a fresh perspective in creating a viable strategy that will enable 8.6 million Haïtians to rebuild their country and achieve long-term results in sustainable social and economic growth. (Picture of Ban Ki-moon (fourth from right) and Bill Clinton (fourth from left) visiting a "Multiwear" Factory at the Sonapi industrial park in Port-au-Prince, Haïti is courtesy of the United Nations/Eskinder Debebe)

Although there is a need for additional financial assistance from donors, one of the results of a comprehensive development strategy is to reduce the dependency of foreign aid and increase Haïti's gross domestic product (GDP) by investing in the country's private sector. According to the United States Department of State, Haïti's GDP by sector in 2006 was agriculture (27%), industry (8%), services (40%), and other (25%). Increasing Haïti's industry sector including textiles and other manufacturing should be a priority to the country's economic development strategy.

The Haïtian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE), which allows duty-free treatment by the United States for certain products from Haiti, was an important piece of legislation to stimulate Haïti's trade with the United States. More efforts should be made to allocate international aid to projects that focus on private sector development including public-private partnerships. Many of the students who participate in my Entrepreneurship and Business Development seminars at CFDE University in Port-au-Prince, Haïti have the knowledge on how to rebuild and strengthen Haïti, but they require the necessary tools to implement their ideas.

In the area of trade, the Haïtian government has made efforts in increasing trade relations along their shared border with the Dominican Republic. In my discussions with Haïti's government officials regarding commerce and trade development, the conversation focused on increasing trade opportunities with the DR. However, Haïti needs to develop bilateral trade relations with other nations. Haïti needs trade agreements similar to the HOPE Act with other industrialized nations to import Haïtian goods without punitive tariffs or customs duty. With globalization, Haïti must position itself better in a competitive global economy. For example, regardless of the future status of Cuba's political system, Cuba's economy will soon create foreign direct investment opportunities. How will Haïti benefit from a growing Cuba economy? How will Haïti compete with Cuba? Furthermore, despite the HOPE Act, exporting Haïtian-made goods is increasing difficult considering the strength of Chinese-made goods and import channels into the United States and European Union.

Haïti has great resources to build a sustainable tourism industry, which I addressed in my blog post, "Haïti: Using Tourism as a Means for Sustainable Social and Economic Development." Using tourism, particularly ecotourism, Haïti has good resources to implement its ecotourism strategy. I reiterate my call for the Haïtian Diaspora to take an active in the recovery and reconstruction of Haïti. The Haïtian government must make it a priority to create opportunities for active Diaspora engagement. The Diaspora holds valuable resources (intellectual, financial, professional, charitable, etc.) to develop solution-oriented strategies to aid Haïtians at home and abroad.

Mr. Clinton's strategy should include using technology to modernize Haïti's education, health care, capacity building in the public sector, public infrastructure, restoration and protection of natural resources, and private sector. Great platforms and products exist in information and communication technology (particularly in mobile solutions), renewable energy, and clean technology to stimulate and facilitate social and economic growth. Again, the success of any initiative requires a systematic collaborative approach with measured benchmarks and defined accountable results.

Historically, international aid agencies and nongovernmental organizations have made uncorroborated efforts to rebuild Haïti. While some efforts have yielded great successes, many organizational efforts have resulted in failure either by the lack of a comprehensive strategy that includes a defined deliverables, value proposition, implementation benchmarks and measurements for success, or organizations were too busy funding their internal operations. As UN Special Envoy for Haïti, Mr. Clinton will bring a systematic approach to Haïti's economic recovery and reconstruction efforts including defined, achievable goals and realistic implementation timelines. (Photo of Ban Ki-moon (fourth from left), Bill Clinton (second from left), and Wyclef Jean (third from left) visiting a Cité Soleil School feeding scheme in Port-au-Prince, Haïti is courtesy of United Nations/Eskinder Debebe)

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