Haiti can become more self-sufficient by attracting foreign investment.
If the cavern-like walls of the Sodeth Clinique Hospitaliere on Rue Tamarin, situated in Croix-des-Bouquets in the outskirts of Port au Prince could talk, they would surely scream.
With over 250,000 consultations per year since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook our nation to its foundations, the Haitian private hospital where I recently stood has no doubt seen its fair share of our continued great tragedy.
The reasoning behind the private institution’s construction and management was clear, beyond any business opportunity—for here in Haiti, you create business to maintain, and to provide for yourself and your immediate family; not with any goal of affluence. No, in the aftermath of the earthquake, Haitians in all walks of life use entrepreneurship as a survival tool, despite little government assistance nor civil infrastructure.
And make no mistake—with more than 290,000 migrants from the Dominican Republic potentially being forced across the borders of our shared island of Hispaniola, many in refugee-like camps looking for work and possibly access to shelter, food, and water, Haitians are preparing to experience déjà vu and continue living in a failed state.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, with the threat of greater economic destabilization to follow, our past leadership and the current Martelly Administration has failed to provide for Haiti. Any notions to the contrary, that our country is ‘back on its feet,’ as stated recently by United Nations officials, are far from the stark reality.
In the face of widespread, unabated cholera and diseases borne from starvation that followed the natural disaster, “…God told me to take care of my people”, Dr. Jean Roumel, Chief Medical Officer and proprietor of the Sodeth Hospital stated. Indeed a deeply religious people, Haitians have often looked to the skies for support, when all around them rubble still remains.
The government’s efforts to check the healthcare crisis have been uneducated; many hospitals have been built yet stand today empty in and around Port au Prince, as there are no doctors being produced, or at least that choose to stay, in what many deem an ‘academic wasteland’, nor is there the public financial capacity to employ them. Good intentions, perhaps; poor execution.
On behalf of my Correch Party, I had the opportunity to visit the farming township of Lhomond, a rural community of Aquin, who have lost yield returns year on year. Severe drought has caused many to believe that they now reside and cultivate amidst a desert, of course juxtaposed by arable lands and a freshwater lake just too far away for conventional and unsupported means of irrigation.
With two-fifths of all Haitians depending on the agricultural sector, farming communities in Haiti so too need to live by their own means. When those means include merely ‘living off the land’, with a lack of agribusiness investment from the public sector, no incentive for private sector investment or modern farming infrastructure of any kind, the ramifications to Lhomond and its way of life are dire.
From the mountainous regions, one views the tree line dissipating every week, as villagers take to cutting trees down en masse as a simple, effective and ecologically devastating means of producing charcoal. “Quick wins”, they tell me, “rather than effective, long-term solutions is how Haiti and its government attempt to do business, which continues to negatively impact its people”.
So how, as Presidential elections loom, does Haiti actually, tangibly recover, ‘regain its footing’ and earn the trust of its citizenry? The answer is simple, yet by no means easy. It’s by making Haitians self-sufficient.
I’ve been fortunate and coupled that good luck with determination in order to be successful in the private sector. I oversee thousands of employees in my capacity as Chairman of SECO Groupe, providing education and employment solutions for many in the Haitian diaspora within the United States and elsewhere. However, after viewing the sustained ambivalence from government, an outright deficit in promotion of tourism, and waste of natural resources and our human potential, I never want to be in the private sector again if it means I can help my country.
I believe we need to encourage and incentivize foreign investment beyond aid. This assistance that we have received is overwhelmingly appreciated; however it should today be tied to our ability to foster and maintain transparency and democracy before, during, and after the October elections. Accountable private sector investment, coupled with social responsibility projects that occur in emerging markets elsewhere, those so too abundant with natural resources, have the ability to shape global perceptions on Haiti as a destination point, and benefit the quality of life for surrounding communities.
‘Good PR’ creates jobs. And five years’ past the great quake, we need to promote our potential unlike the impetus for any other nation in the Caribbean, Latin America or around the world.
We can point to the past for its tragic lapses in judgment and government’s self-serving resourcefulness. And if those in the international community are suggesting we have stability, I have to use this opportunity to do so. However, we ultimately must look to the future, immediately check the abhorrent human rights abuses via the mass deportations under the Haitian President Martelly and Dominican Republic President Medina Administrations; create and promote a roadmap to train students vocationally and get more farmers to prospective farmlands; stop the brain drain, and bring doctors and nurses through the curriculum and to the hollow constructions yearning for them.
Make Haiti work for itself.
We are far from recovery, if our government continues to rely so deeply on international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability (over half of our annual budget comes to us from external sources). However, let us capitalize on the opportunity to bring tangible change through a commitment to transparency and allow the workforce to provide for its citizenry, one in desperate need of confidence and from it, patriotism.
To the U.N., I stress that there is little more for us left to lose.