Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti
Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti
Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti
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Forum Haiti : Des Idées et des Débats sur l'Avenir d'Haiti

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Age : 51
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Opinion politique : Homme de gauche,anti-imperialiste....
Date d'inscription : 21/08/2006

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March 31, 2009

Haiti’s Big Chance

It is easy to visit Haiti and see only poverty. But when
I visited recently with former President Bill Clinton, we saw opportunity.

Yes, Haiti remains desperately poor. It has yet to fully
recover from last year’s devastating hurricanes, not to mention decades
of malign dictatorship. Yet we can report what President René Préval told
us: “Haiti is at a turning point.” It can slide backwards into darkness
and deeper misery, sacrificing all the country’s progress and hard work
with the United Nations and international community. Or it can break out,
into the light toward a brighter and more hopeful future.

Next month, major international donors will gather in Washington
to consider further help for this unfortunate land, so battered by forces
beyond its control. Outwardly, there seems little cause of optimism. The
financial crisis has crimped aid budgets. Haiti’s own problems — runaway
population growth, acute shortages of food and life’s basic necessities,
environmental degradation — often appear insuperable.

Yet in fact, Haiti stands a better chance than almost any
emerging economy, not only to weather the current economic storms but to
prosper. The reason: new U.S. trade legislation, passed last year, throws
open a huge window of opportunity.

HOPE II, as the act is known, offers Haiti duty-free, quota-free
access to U.S. markets for the next nine years. No other nation enjoys
a similar advantage. This is a foundation to build on. It is a chance to
consolidate the progress Haiti has made in winning a measure of political
stability, with the help of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, and move beyond
aid to genuine economic development. Given the country’s massive unemployment,
particularly among youth, that means one thing above all else: jobs.

My special adviser on Haiti, the Oxford University development
economist Paul Collier, has worked with the government to devise a strategy.
It identifies specific steps and policies to create those jobs, with particular
emphasis on the country’s traditional strengths — the garment industry
and agriculture. Among them: enacting new regulations lowering port fees
(among the highest in the Caribbean) and creating the sort of industrial
“clusters” that have come to dominate global trade.

In practical terms, this means dramatically expanding the
country’s export zones, so that a new generation of textile firms can
invest and do business in one place. By creating a market sufficiently
large to generate economies of scale, they can drive down production costs
and, once a certain threshold is crossed, spark potentially explosive growth
constrained only by the size of the labor pool.

That may seem ambitious in a country of 9 million people,
where 80 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day and half
of the food is imported. Yet we know it can work. We have seen it happen
in Bangladesh, which boasts a garment industry supporting 2.5 million jobs.
We have seen it happen in Uganda and Rwanda.

President Clinton and I saw many good signs during our
trip, both large and small. One day we visited an elementary school in
Cité Soleil, a slum in Port au Prince long controlled by violent gangs
before U.N. peacekeepers reclaimed it.

It did my heart good to see these children. They were well-fed,
thanks to the U.N. World Food Program. Even better, they were happy and
they were learning — as children should. It was a sign of more normal

We visited a second school, as well — this one for gifted
students called HELP, short for the Haitian Education Leadership Program.
With money raised privately in the United States, it provides scholarships
to the very poorest Haitian children who could not otherwise dream of attending
university. All these young people go on to lead productive careers. They
make good salaries. They embark upon lives of promise — and virtually
all of them stay in Haiti.

I told these young people that I thought of them as “seeds
of hope,” for they represent a better tomorrow.

To an outsider, it is striking how modest the obstacles
are in relation to Haiti’s potential. Visiting a clean and efficient factory
in the capital, we met workers earning $7 a day making T-shirts for export
— vaulting them into the Haitian middle class. Under HOPE II, the owner
figures he can double or triple production within a year.

All this is why, in Washington, we will be asking donors
to invest in Haiti, to step beyond traditional humanitarian aid. This is
Haiti’s moment, a break-out opportunity for one of the poorest nations
to lift itself toward a future of real economic prospects and genuine hope.

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