PORT-AU-PRINCE, (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former U.S. President Bill Clinton yesterday unveiled a string of social and economic changes they said were needed for Haiti to pull itself out of poverty. The two men said they were impressed by Haiti’s growth potential after a 24-hour visit and urged its government to quickly exploit favorable terms of trade with the United States and the stabilizing presence of some 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers.
“They need to strengthen the capacity of the Haitian national police, they should improve the correctional facilities, they should have better government structures which can function better and they should do more on social-economic development,” Ban said at a news conference.
He added that the Caribbean nation, the Western hemisphere’s poorest and one plagued by a history of violence and political unrest, had made progress in restoring peace and stability but must do more to attract investment.
Riots sparked by skyrocketing food prices led to the ouster last year of Haiti’s government. Low labour costs, proximity to the United States and Canada and the duty-free access it will enjoy in the U.S. market for the next nine years could underpin future economic growth, Ban said.
But he and Clinton saw evidence of Haiti’s political problems when protesters demanded the return of deposed former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the reinstatement of the Lavalas Family Party.
Aristide, who formed the party in 1996, went into exile after he was removed from office in a 2004 rebellion.
The party was barred from Senate elections next month on a technicality, raising fears results would be tainted. On Monday a judge ordered election supervisors to put its candidates on the April 19 ballot if they qualified individually.
Both Clinton, who is trying to help Haiti through his Clinton Global Initiative foundation, and Ban said lowering the cost of doing business through reduced commercial rents and lower energy prices would create more jobs in the nation.
They stressed that point after touring a garment factory that makes T-shirts in the capital Port-au-Prince. Textiles are a potential major growth sector for Haiti, according to Ban.
Clinton said he was told the factory had 3,000 employees but could easily employ 10,000 if the cost of power was cut.