AGREEMENTS SIGNED TO BOOST JOBS, HEALTH CARE IN HAITI
(South Florida Caribbean News) - By Stephen Kaufman
Washington — New jobs and improved health care are key to Haiti’s recovery from the January 12 earthquake, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the September 20 signing of two agreements that will create an industrial park near Port-au-Prince and rebuild the University Hospital of Haiti.
Speaking in New York with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Clinton said that more than eight months after the disaster, the people of Haiti continue to suffer.
“They need jobs, they need health care, they need us — their own government and the international community — to follow through on our promises and translate our good intentions to real concrete progress on the ground,” she said.
The two memorandums of understanding signed in New York will encourage progress in both job creation and providing a foundation to rebuild the country’s health system, Clinton said.
The first, signed by Haiti, the United States, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation and South Korea’s Sae-A Trading Company, would establish an industrial park and a garment manufacturing operation that Clinton said has the potential to create more than 10,000 permanent jobs.
“These are not just any jobs; these are good jobs with fair pay that adhere to international labor standards,” she said. “And the impact on Haiti’s economy has enormous potential for being significant and sending a message that Haiti is open for business again.”
The second, signed by Haiti, the United States and France, commits each country to help rebuild the University Hospital of Haiti, which serves as the central public hospital for Port-au-Prince and as the country’s main teaching hospital.
“Since January 12th, it has been serving thousands of people, even though it is crippled by physical damage, limited equipment, limited electrical and other critical services,” Clinton said.
“The United States and France will each invest $25 million to rebuild this hospital, to create a facility that meets the needs of the Haitian people, and the Haitian government will contribute $3.2 million in funding.”
Clinton said the devastation in Haiti has been enormous, and people who are expecting immediate progress are “unrealistic and doing a disservice to the many people who are working so hard.”
“But to expect less than concerted effort every day that produces results would be a great tragedy,” she said.
Since the quake, many have spoken not only of rebuilding the country, but to “fundamentally re-imagine the Haitian landscape by building a stronger economy, better infrastructure and a sturdier social system, not just in Port-au-Prince but nationwide,” she said.
She pledged that the Obama administration will work hard on Haiti’s behalf with all of its international partners.
Prime Minister Bellerive said the signing of the agreements had made September 20 “a great day for Haiti.” He spoke of the need for private investment and cooperation on Haitian health needs to help the country recover.
“It was a great day for Haiti, creating new jobs. But it’s also a great day when we see the coordination and cooperation between the partners of Haiti are working together to support the Haitian plan,” he said.
Foreign Minister Kouchner urged Haitian authorities to have a public health plan and offer health insurance so the poor will also be able to access the University Hospital. “I’m very happy that we have started working together here, and that this wonderful hospital that we’re going to build will tend to every Haitian in the country — the big ones and the small ones too,” he said.
Following the signing ceremony, Clinton joined Bellerive and former President Bill Clinton at a special session of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) that met to measure progress in the country.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in New York September 20 that the secretary received a lengthy update at the IHRC on the preparations for Haiti’s November 28 presidential and legislative elections.
Crowley said the IHRC is coordinating reconstruction activities in the country, with $1.6 billion worth of projects approved so far.
Former President Clinton told the commission that it is important for every country to make sure its plans to assist Haiti are “worked through the IHRC [to ensure] there is full transparency and accountability,” according to Crowley.
“President Clinton is putting a system in place that worked in the efforts that he undertook with the tsunami to make sure that all projects in Haiti are available on the Internet so everybody knows what’s being planned and what’s been approved,” Crowley said.