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President Clinton’s Address to the IDB Conference

1 October 2009
Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti

Madame Prime Minister, President Moreno, friends,
Good afternoon. Let me say that it was about three months ago that Prime Minister and President Préval asked me to organize this modest trade and investment event and President Moreno thought that it was a good idea, and here we are.

Even a few years ago, I could not have imagined an event like this occurring in Port-au-Prince. Not only because there are so many people here, from corporations, small businesses, NGOs, people who live in Haiti and people from all over the world, but because you actually are here, knowing that this is a moment of great opportunity. We know that this is a great opportunity not only for investments to come in, make a profit and export to other markets, but for the people of Haiti to have a more secure and broadly shared prosperous future.

I want to say a special word of appreciation. Though I have met a lot of people here from the US and Canada, and even as far away as Korea, I want to say a special word of appreciation for the people who came here from Latin America and the Caribbean. Within ten minutes this morning in the coffee break, I met people from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, of course the Dominican Republic and a number of other places. Just people coming up to me. This also is an unprecedented development for Haiti.

When I was President, and we led an international coalition to restore the democratically elected President of Haiti and to try to begin a more normal set of relations with Haiti and all of its neighbours, I can honestly say that of all the countries in the neighbourhood, only Argentina seemed genuinely committed to the project. Perhaps because of reasons related more to its own experience. Today, beginning with the leadership of the Brazilians in the UN force, there is this enormous broad shared understanding that our hemisphere is going to rise and fall together and that we cannot afford to leave people behind or to ignore opportunity wherever it exists. So I do want to say, with no disrespect to everyone else, as a long-time supporter of Haiti, I am grateful especially for the people who are here from the neighbourhood.

I also want to thank the Prime Minister, the President and the Government of Haiti for their comprehensive recovery plan; for working already to make some changes to make Haiti more attractive to foreign investment and for doing all of this in a way that is designed to have a more broadly shared prosperity than ever before. One of the things that has previously bedevilled Haiti’s previous attempts to establish democracy is the dramatic inequality in the distribution of income and opportunity. If this plan is properly implemented and all of us do our part, Haitians will rise together. The rich will get richer, but there will be a much, much bigger middle class, with poor people pouring into it at a rapid rate.

The new laws in the pipeline that will create more secure conditions for investors, will make it more attractive for Haitian Diaspora to come home and investment, further demonstrate Haiti’s commitment to opening its doors and building a shared future.

So I am very grateful, not only to the members of the Government, but also to the legislative leaders who are supporting these endeavours and will be dealing with a number of other issues in the future.

I want to thank the donors and the multilateral development banks who are here, who have been very generous in doing their parts towards sustainable development. Last week, President Moreno signalled his commitment to create a multi-donor trust fund for budget support which is very important for the Haitian Government to strengthen the capacity of the civil service and do more what is necessary for the people who are not going to be caught up in this economic recovery any time soon; and for the children who need education.

Haiti has also secured millions of dollars in debt relief from the World Bank, the IMF and other donor governments including the US, France and Canada. Today, we have MIGA here, the arm of the World Bank that provides some of the risk guarantees to foreign investors. That should be an encouraging sign, although I can tell you the political risk in Haiti has been the lowest in my life-time. Nonetheless, if you are worried about it, you have got the World Bank here.

I just had to say one thing – this is not in my notes. I did urge that we have this meeting, but it would not be happening, and there would not be nearly so many people from Latin America and the Caribbean if it weren’t for Luis Moreno. I think that he has been an unbelievably visionary, active leader at the head of the Inter-American Development Bank and he was the Ambassador in Colombia the whole time that I was President. He helped me develop Plan Colombia, and if you wonder whether he can make a success of something, let me remind you that this year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the IADB in Medellin, which for more years than I care to remember, was the home of international narco-trafficking. The Secretary of the Treasury of the US, and a former President, with the full blessings of the Secret Service, went to Medellin because it belongs to the people of Colombia again and he deserves a lot of the credit.

So, that was an unpaid political advertisement for the continuation of the best leadership I have ever seen in the IADB (laughter). We wouldn’t be doing this without him. Now, I would also like to thank the bilateral donors and in particular, I am grateful that when we had the donors’ conference in April, some 350 billion dollars was pledged. And I am grateful that the two countries pledging with the highest percentage of people in their countries of Haitian origin, US and France, are the only two that are at least a third of the way home or already disbursing their pledges. One of the parts of my mandate from the UN Secretary-General was to make sure that the UN donors conference was not a fraud and that we did not have one more international meeting where people said I will give this money and then it never happened. So I want to thank the Government of France for disbursing a third of the money that it is committed and I want to thank the Government of the US, represented here by the Chief of Staff and Counsellor of the Secretary of State, Ms. Cheryl Mills, who has been to Haiti even more than I have since we started this endeavor. The US has disbursed 38 percent what it promised in April. We all need to do that. Whatever we say we are going to do, we need to keep our word. Haitians have had far high in the sky promises from local people and foreigners for long enough. Better to promise less and deliver more. So I want to thank the donors who are delivering what they say.

Now, another part of the mandate I received from Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon when I took this job, was to try to attract more investment and support the implementation of Haiti’s own development plan. Part of that is just to improve the image of the country. If you heard the Prime Minister in her remarkable address this morning, she talked about that. Sometimes what people think about you is not true. Now if you happen to be an elected official in a country with the vigorous political press, that cannot be avoided. But if your nation is struggling to get the truth to light, it can be avoided.

So I ask all of you who are here today, to help me do one thing the Secretary-General asked me to do, which is to lift the positive visibility of Haiti when you leave here. Whether you think you are going to make a deal right now or not, tell people what you saw, tell people what you feel.

We are trying to diversify this economy – that is another part of our mandate – and another part of this plan. So that in addition to the manufacturing, the agro business and energy issues, we are trying to rebuild tourism in Haiti. And I think it is very important. Let me just give you an idea of the potential from other things that I do. I do a lot of work in Liberia, where the US has a special obligation because the country was founded by freed slaves who could not live in equality in the United States at the time they founded Liberia. So they went through a horrible 14 years of war. Their per capita income got to 260 dollars per year. In Monrovia, once a thriving city, more 80 percent of the people went without electricity three years after the war was over. But we organized some African-American businessmen who built two hotels there and with those two things alone in a country with only three million people, we created 1,800 jobs. That is a scratch of the surface of what Americans should do to support the development of tourism in Haiti. Americans, Canadians, all of us in the area. If you look at what tourism has done for the Dominican Republic, our next door neighbour, and a new partnership that the Dominicans have expressed toward Haiti. Every week, seems like there is some new advancement designed to strengthen the ties. I think it is just the beginning. Tomorrow, I am going to visit the Palace of Sans Souci at the Citadel to try to highlight, what is maybe the most remarkable known piece of architecture anywhere in the entire hemisphere. Last year, I think there were only 800 visitors because of less knowledge. Because the travel advisories in the US and Canada have been now changed and I hope that will be altered further, because of the lack of infrastructure, I think two thirds of them were Haitian Americans and their friends and family members. So there is an enormous potential here. All around the island and all the beaches and in many other places as well. So, we want to work on that.

We need infrastructure. I am particularly grateful for those who have contributed to the money that is making it possible for us to rebuild roads so we can rebuild both agribusiness and tourism. Haiti needs another airport; they need another airport on the north end of the island in Cap Haitian (applause). I know that one of the participants – I know that we have one of the participants here – later in the panel – from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Frank Ranieri. All I can tell you is, I have never landed in an airplane in Cap Haitien, I have been in an airplane in Punta Cana countless times and it was developed with private capital but the Dominican government earns a fortune out of that airport every year in fees and revenues, and I believe that, more than one third of all the foreign exchange earned by the entire country goes through that one airport. That could the case with an airport in Cap Haitien. We need to do this and the rest of us need to work with the Haitian Government to figure out how to both build the road network so people can get to places like the Citadel that are not readily available from the beaches, and how to provide more other opportunity for transportation.

Now, let me also say it is important not to forget about the bread and butter. There are a lot of you here who are interested in building up the agricultural sector. If we are going to do anything about deforestation, I may say more about that in a minute – we got to make it more profitable to leave the trees up than to tear them down. I work on deforestation all over the world with my Foundation. It has nothing to do with what I’m doing here. I am very worried about it. Eighteen percent of the global warming problem every single year is caused by the tearing down of the trees. I was just invited by the Brazilian biofuels group – more than 2,000 of them, growing cane for ethanol – to come and address them and I never saw a group like this – an industry group stand up and take personal responsibility for deforestation like they did, even though they do not plant cane on deforested land. But they know that because Brazilian cane ethanol energy technology is by far the most efficient in the world, giving you over nine gallons of fuel for one gallon of oil, they keep taking up the good farm land and then it pushes the soybean farmers and the cattle farmers into more marginal land and into tearing down rain forests. So they asked me what they could do about it and I suggested a number of things for the forests but I also suggested that they bring more of the technology off shore among other places to Haiti and the Dominican Republic where they could make biofuels and send it to the US without the 53 cents a gallon tariff because of our relationship there.

These are the things we need to be thinking about.

I am very grateful to the former President of the US, George Bush, and the Congress for the Hope II legislation which extended the preferences that had previously been given to Haiti for the import into the US of covered items. But we haven’t even come close to tapping the potential of Hope II. So I am very grateful for all of you here, who presently are doing production in the garment area and those of you here, who are considering starting or moving facilities to Haiti to do that same work. There are tens of thousands, maybe as many as 100,000 potential jobs in this country (inaudible) if we were to maximize what that law will provide. I can tell you that every country in the world is reeling from the economic troubles of the last year, and protectionism is on the rise everywhere in the world. The one place where there is no feeling of protectionism is the way the US Congress and people – both parties – feel about Haiti. They want you to produce whatever you can here and send it to the US so we can buy it (laughter). So I thank you all for being here for that.

Let me also say, that I think it is important that we not forget about the small business sector. Those of you who are here, who are in the financing business or who are prepared as NGOs to do small start-up financing, I think it is important to remember that in every country on earth, most people are employed by small businesses. A lot of you know this, but in my last trip here, I visited a neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince where a young 27 year old entrepreneur and the neighbourhood council had decided that the best way to get people to stop tearing down trees and burning charcoal is to end the demand for charcoal by creating a substitute. And so they began for the first time to collect garbage in the neighbourhood – something they did not have before. That took a lot of people. Then they began to separate the garbage and that took a lot of people. Then they used the organic material to make compost fertilizer, and that took some more people. And then they began to use the paper that was the damnest thing I ever saw. They devised their own paper shredder, so that one person could shred a lot of paper at once, they got saw dust from a local furniture manufacturer who was glad to get rid of the saw dust, they mixed it together, put it in canisters like this, wet, put it in a press they designed – with twelve separate presses – at one time, sliced it up, dried it and developed little briquettes to substitute for charcoal. Four of them in a Haitian traditional cooking stove cost four cents – four cents for dinner. The same amount of energy from charcoal costs 20 cents. When you consider that less than 70 percent of Haitians live on less than two dollars per day, cutting the energy costs for cooking a meal by 80 percent looks nothing to most of us who live in wealthier circumstances; it is a very significant thing. And they employ at least ten times as many people in the supply chain as are employed in cutting down trees and converting it to charcoal and distributing it to the homes. They did it all with a grant from Koze Foundation here and a little other help but with a private investment and even one buyer – we haven’t a buyer yet for the plastic or metal or the glass, it’s all been segregated, you would see this spread to every neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince. You could see it spread to every city in Haiti and wouldn’t contradict anything international investment wanted to do and eventually, it would be a model to be taken all across the world. Let me tell you, in the mega cities I deal with all over the world, when people ask me to come in and help with fighting climate change, I always expect them to ask me to do something to bring fabulous solar panels, fabulous wind energy, do something to change the way buildings are built to make them more efficient. And the number one thing that they always ask for is to do something about the land fills because it takes too much land and it emits methane gas, it is a public health hazard, it is polluting the water. We could close every land fill in the world if there was a model like this one thing. This is my 1 percent solution. (Holds up briquette.) Pretty good, like a penny. I say that because this is Exhibit A for one of the things I live by – Intelligence and Effort are evenly distributed on Planet Earth.

In every country, organization, functioning systems and investments are not evenly distributed. So I love this project and I am trying to get something done with it but it is more, I raise it today as an example of a larger potential of the Haitian people.

I’ll tell you an interesting statistic: In the US of America, 11 percent of all African-American physicians are Haitians (applause). Only about 1.5 percent of African-Americans are Haitians. The Haitian people are doing great everywhere else and they will do great in Haiti if we help them and support this plan. Which means that we need due attention here to the potential of small and medium size businesses.

Let me say another small word of thanks to my friend Denis O’Brien and the people of Digicel. They have just asked me to emphasize this new initiative they have launched called “Young Entrepreneurs Initiative” which allows young people to submit business proposals to be reviewed by an independent board, which will then provide a 15,000 dollar grant to the winning project, and training, placing a high priority on projects that invest in women and girls to get them fully integrated into the Haitian economic system. That is an important part of this, because it addresses the inequality of women in Haiti, and by the way, most developing countries, in accessing credit, and it is a smart investment. Experience has shown all over the world that investing in women allow their families to reap the benefits in the form of better nutrition, better access to health care and education, and a higher standard of living. So I want to thank Denis O’Brien, the Haitian Minister for Gender Affairs, who has kindly agreed to contribute her experience to this.

Let me say one more word about the Haitian Diaspora. I think Haitians living abroad who have done well, by and large, feel an obligation that 100 percent of them should feel – to help their native land. And they can make a huge difference here. The Americans, the Canadians, the French, the Haitian Diaspora wherever it is. We have been working with the Diaspora community for the last several months. I have had two meetings in the US – one in the International Convention Centre in Miami and my host is here today in this meeting, and one with the people from the North East. We are working hard to identify the barriers to participation. It is a big priority with us. I want to thank the Prime Minister and the legislative leaders for considering legislation now which will remove a significant number of those barriers and that is important.

Dr. Paul Farmer who agreed to be the Deputy UN Special Envoy has constituted a team in our UN office which includes members of that Haitian Diaspora. So we are sensitive to that. If any of you have any ideas ever of things we ought to do to get more Haitian who live abroad involved, I would welcome them.

Let me also say that I am going to try to do more to highlight the potential of small businesses to be worthy of investments and to show investors that they provide a framework for new investments. We are going to an industrial park in the Cite Soleil that has got more than a million square feet of warehouse space and other services to support the export market. This project is supported by the Soros Development Fund and local development investors and it is poised to provide services to US importers of Haitian made garments, textiles and eventually to generate 25,000 new jobs with onsite health services. So I thank them for that.

We also need to think not only of what Haiti has done well in the past but what it could do well in the future, given the right support. That involves developing internal and external markets. We are speaking to investments and companies, promoting use of alternative energy, waste management, water purification, housing development for low income family and beauty projects, things that will not only diversify the economy to make it less vulnerable to international economic fluctuations, but will also encourage the growth of the middle class.

In the end, all of our efforts will have to be judged by how many jobs we create, how much we swelled the middle class, and whether we perform for the investors and they earn a profit for doing the right thing.

Beyond that, I want to mention a few other things to be specific.

Last week, I completed the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative which we have at the UN every year, around the UN and we have world leaders, corporate leaders, philanthropists, NGOs from the US and then we fly in people from all around the world who could otherwise not afford to come, so that every sector of society is represented on every continent. For the last two years, we have issued a call to action for Haiti. The two years have resulted in commitment worth more than 420 million dollars and I am very grateful for that. Last week alone, there were 258 million dollars in new commitments but one of the commitments made in 2008, the bridge in Boucan Carré, was completed last week and it will change lives. I thank Denis O’Brien, Dr. Paul Farmer’s colleagues and partners in health, the Government of Haiti – I thank them all. As well as the other companies, NGOs and the UN forces who enabled this bridge to be up and operating, allowing residents to reach clinics and hospitals and providing access to markets to distributors and small farmers.

This is the sort of thing that those of us not in government can do. These kinds of partnerships contribute to economic and social development. Therefore they are both economic and moral imperatives. We want to attract the kind of businesses like Digicel who are committed to both.

I want to applaud one of the organizers of this conference from the International Labour Organization. They are here this week and having a conference with companies committed to doing business in a way that ensures that the jobs are in line with internationally agreed upon standards of labour.

We want to build Haiti better than it was before the storms. Not just creating jobs but creating diverse and sustainable jobs, not just generating power but developing greener and more sustainable power that will reduce pollution, reduce deforestation and reduce the financial burden of buying power from somewhere else. We want to build houses but we want the houses to be hurricane and flood resistant as well as affordable. We want to grow more produce but we want to package it better and have it travel better, market it better and save more of it for genuine incomes for the farmers.

Our work is just getting started but I do want to talk about some of the things that have already been done. I mentioned the Soros Economic Development Fund and its Haiti Invest Project. I want to thank them for their commitment of 25 million dollars and tell you that they are approaching potential partners in an effort to expand the initial capitalization to 150 million dollars for investments in garment manufacture, agriculture, logistics, tourism, energy and housing. So for investors, participating in this fund is a pretty good idea since George Soros has a very good record of making money in his life (laughter).

I want to thank Michael Carey, an Irish businessman, and a group of his colleagues who recently established the Soul of Haiti Foundation to offer partnerships over a long period of time between Haitian and Irish business people.

I want to thank James Lee Witt and his associates (who was my Director of Emergency Management). They have committed to providing disaster preparedness training for women in Haiti and they have already been working here with the UN team to do that.

One of the people who came here with me on my trip in March is an Indian citizen named Desh Despandi who feeds one million children in India every single day. One million children, with a programme that works to improve nutrition and school performance. He has offered to help that laudable school feeding effort that is already underway and help lift the scale of cover of the government as near as 100 percent of the children as possible who need the food in school.

I want to thank a friend of the Government, Rolando Gonzalez Bunster, who has offered to bring five windmills with eight megawatts of capacity that are produced by VESPAS, the Danish company. They are the best windmills in the world and we want to prove what is the total capacity of Haiti to use wind energy effectively. We hope this will be a drop in the bucket. We hope this will be a big contribution to the long term energy independence for Haiti but there is no point in making these investments if the capacity is not there. I thank you Rolando and I ask the Government to get them up as soon as possible.

Now just last week, we also had two million dollars pledged by and famous actor Matt Damon, to provide safe water and sanitation to 50, 000 more Haitians. Habitat for Humanity pledged almost five million dollars to make 1,500 family homes in two cities destroyed by last year’s hurricanes to build back better. A company called Sunlight Solar that works closely with my Foundation, has offered to give 500, 000 Haitian families these, in rural areas where there have no electricity so at night, they will at least have some light where the mothers can work and the children can study. That will help 2,500,000 people.

There have been some other interesting commitments. The International Labour Organization, building on its success in doubling employment in the Cambodian apparel industry, is again teaming up with the International Finance Corporation, through Better Works Haiti, to do the same thing here and there are here – it is a good thing. Giant garment industry representatives here – Gap, Walmart, Levi’s – have agreed to work with Haitian factories, the ILO and the Government, to ensure that all garments and textiles meet ILO guidelines and that workers rights are respected.

Royal Caribbean which now brings most of the tourists who come to Haiti every year, has committed to begin bringing tourists to the Citadel as part of their on shore activities, and have also agreed to create a new school to be based in the Cap Haitien region, operated by the RCCL, the Ministry of Tourism, the local chamber of commerce, to empower the people in the North of Haiti, to learn about and participate in the hospitality industry. They are doing a lot of other things too but time does not permit me to say. I want to say a special word of appreciation to them. They have been wonderful.

Biotech and the Government of Haiti this week signed an agreement to use a sugar mill to begin to expand the production of sugar here and to bolster agriculture business and to create hundreds of new jobs and to give Haiti the potential get into the biofuel market. We need to see whether we can do that here in a way, by the way, that would help deforestation, not only in Haiti but in Brazil as I explained earlier.

So there are a lot of other things going on. I want to mention just a couple more. Irish entrepreneur, Terry Cloune of, is going to establish a new call centre in Port-au-Prince. If we can have call centre in America operating from India and Pakistan, I don’t see why we cannot have one in Haiti. They employ a lot of people in a good environment. So I want to thank them.

Let me tell you one thing. I want to commit to all and to you, Mme. Prime Minister. Our staff and the IADB staff, I have talked with President Moreno about this – commit to you that we will personally follow up with every business person and company here represented, who would like us to help them finalize a real deal. What we want to do, is to know exactly what you want to do, exactly what you need done, exactly what the steps are, between now and actually consummating a commitment to Haiti. Then once we know the great specificity, what you want to do, what you are seeking to do, we will be in a position either to go get you some help, or to say would you consider making this or the other modification so we can help you get the help you need.

We will work very closely with the Government of Haiti as we always do. But this is really important. Because a lot of you came here to see what is going on and to see if this Haiti thing is real or just PR. This is real. One way we can make it real – the Development Bank and our office – is to take the things that cannot be finished here and ride hard on them. But you have to help us. If you want to help us to get financing, if you want to help because you think it will take too long to get government approval, if you want to help because you cannot figure how to get access to the port – whatever your questions are, the more specific you are, and the sooner you are specific with us, the easier it will be for all of us to go to work with the Government here in trying to resolve these problems.

So that is my commitment to you, but I cannot keep it unless you help me.

Thank you very much. Let’s get on with the show.