President of the Republic of Haiti Michel Martelly urged businessmen in the Caribbean Community to invest in Haiti to help create wealth for its development, even as he stated his intentions to pursue full integration in the CSM, in his address at the 32nd CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government.
Last Thursday, Martelly gave assurances that in collaboration with the private and public sectors in Haiti, he was creating the necessary conditions for his country to become a natural destination for foreign investments. According to a CARICOM press release, he was speaking against the background of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti that left hundreds of thousands dead, left more than a million homeless and devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Haiti had been on the verge of beginning the trade in goods aspect of the CARICOM Single Market (CSM) when the earthquake struck. Martelly said his country will give “utmost importance” to full integration in the CSM, noting that the previous administration had already started the process to “harmonize the norms with those of CARICOM.” “We will do our best to activate this process,” he said, “so that the Haitian economy would integrate with the other economies of CARICOM Member States in the areas of agriculture, industry and services.”
Martelly told the meeting that in 2009, the total sum of direct investments was about $400M, most of it from the telecommunications sector. He said he hoped that in ten years, with the new policies in place, the total sum of annual direct investments would reach $4B. “We believe in investments and its capacity to contribute to build a solid and correct vision of the future of Haiti. We believe in human capacity and in education because it is through educated men, women and children with a same vision, that we will be able to build this future as dreamed by Toussaint Louverture and Alexandre Petion,” he said.
The Haiti president then extended gratitude to CARICOM for the preferential arrangement for some Haitian products entering the regional market. The three-year, non–reciprocal preferential arrangement took effect from January 1, following agreement at the Council for Trade and Economic Development in December 2010. “I was informed that an exportation of Haitian products based on this tariff was made to Grenada. I want to point out that in 2009 the Haitian Parliament ratified and harmonized about 40% of the Haitian tariff to the common external tariff of CARICOM. We will work together for the 60% left,” he promised.
Martelly also referred to the decision in late 2010 to create a Haitian CARICOM Fund to rebuild Haiti, saying that significant strides had been made since then. He also lauded the aid his country received from the Community in the wake of the devastating earthquake. “…You have accompanied us without hesitation. Throughout all the different natural catastrophes that have shaken our country in the past, you have accompanied us in spirit and carried us in your hearts,” he said, reiterating that “we are so very thankful…”
The president also said he would issue formal instructions to restart negotiations with the Caribbean Development Bank with respect to the fund, as well as the actual status of Haiti within the Bank. The meeting was hosted in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis. It marked Martelly’s first official visit overseas since his inauguration as president.