The devastating earthquake less than five years ago that killed nearly 3 percent of the Haiti’s population also destroyed its infrastructure and left many of its people homeless. In the wake of such wide-spread destruction, I had expected to find a nation scattered by crime with very little private investment and humanitarian efforts that were barely able to tread water. But, to my surprise, I found a nation on a promising recovery.
While it’s obvious that Haiti is still struggling with many problems, the country is full of opportunities for both the Haitian people and savvy investors. As President Clinton has made clear on this and many other occasions, “Haiti is open for business.”
The soil here is rich enough to grow all manner of crops, and though earthquake damage and wood fueled cooking has taken its toll on much of the foliage in the countryside, reforestation and alternative energy have already been identified as strong pillars for Haiti’s economic revival. Even the crime rate has been reduced below many of Haiti’s neighbors.
It was also interesting to observe how the world has come together to aid this tiny nation. The helicopters that took our delegation across the country were the same Russian-made models that flew in Afghanistan during the Cold War. Uruguayan troops are helping provide security alongside Haitian police forces. And of course, Americans are there demonstrating the generosity of our great country in force.
After the earthquake, over half of U.S. households contributed monetarily in some way to Haiti’s recovery. My plane from Miami to Port au Prince was filled with young American humanitarian groups, who would fan out all over to help rebuild the country. Several American companies and their charitable arms have begun to make longer term investments in human infrastructure, too.
And I promise you the Haitians are very aware of the work Americans have done for them. After seeing how locals greeted our delegation everywhere we went, I think rock stars should start referring to it as the “President Clinton treatment.”
There is still much to do, and Haiti still faces major challenges, both structurally and politically. But I came back from my trip encouraged. The work we are doing in Haiti with coordination among the public and private sectors is making a difference, and in another generation, my hope is we will see the fruits of this labor with a new and vibrant Haiti.