Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Neoliberal model imposed on Haiti by foreign powers is failing its citizens

The mood in Port au Prince’s flashiest hotel was cautiously optimistic. A business conference was held this January at the Karibe Hotel with a range of local and international businesspeople. Called Restore Haiti, the event was held more than four years after the devastating 2010 earthquake that left the capital in ruins and killed up to 200,000 people. There, delegates heard about the myriad of ways to make money in the Caribbean nation.

One of the first speakers was George Andy Rene, managing director of the official body Investment Facilitation Centre. He repeated the popular government mantra since taking office in 2011: “Haiti is open for business”. “We need to counter the negative image of Haiti in the global media”, he said. However, Texan Christian entrepreneur Fred Eppright, of Bridge Capital, issued a blunt warning: the international image of Haiti remains dire and in desperate need of improvement. By all means support Haiti, he argued, but be aware of the risks.

A dynamic and increasingly thriving Haiti is one the US-backed government wants the world to see. President Michel Martelly and prime minister Laurent Lamothe, whose faces are plastered across billboards and propaganda material throughout the country, are close to the Obama administration and have benefitted from their association with Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. For example, some industrial parks were built thanks to US funds; the much-heralded one in the north of Haiti, at Caracol, has fallen far short of official expectations.

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