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Haiti 2.0? by Rob Neal
April 2, 2009, 11:14 am
Filed under: Development theory

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former President Bill Clinton and Oxford University’s Paul Collier hope to remake Haiti. They have a plan that will help create jobs, bring food security, promote reforestation and provide basic services like health care.

According to the CIA World Factbook, Haiti’s current status is:

  • Population about 9 million.
  • Mostly young — only about 3.5% is over 65 years of age. This is because the life expectancy is about 59 years for males and about 62 years for females.
  • High unemployment — more than two-thirds of the labor force is unemployed.
  • Hurricane alley — in 2008, Haiti was hit by three Hurricanes (Gustav, Hanna, and Ike), as well as Tropical Storm Fay.
  • Unstable — since 2004, the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) of about 9,000 has been present to maintain security.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked Mr. Collier to look at Haiti because he was so impressed by Collier’s book The Bottom Billion. In an interview with Focal Point, Mr. Collier says that Haiti “has a lot of opportunity.” Mr. Collier gave four reasons for his optimism:

  1. Neighborhoods matter — Haiti is the like the worst house in a prosperous neighborhood. “Neighborhoods matter” says Collier.
  2. Not divided — Haiti is not ethnically divided as some countries.
  3. Trade — Haiti has a very advantageous trade deal with the US called HOPE II. It guarantees Haiti duty-free, quota-free access to the U.S market for the nine years. Collier calls it “the best trade deal on Earth and is exactly the sort of trade deal that I want to see for the bottom billion and Haiti has got it.”
  4. Diaspora — The Haitian Diaspora is a “huge potential asset in terms of remittances and skills and lobbying” in America and Canada.

Mr. Collier’s report/plan is available here. Ban Ki-moon provides an outline of Mr. Collier’s strategy in a recent New York Times Op-Ed:

“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.”

Will it work? No one really knows. But if Mr. Collier’s plan works in Haiti, what are the implications for initiatives in other countries?

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