THE BLOG
01/13/2015 09:52 am ET Updated Mar 14, 2015

A WSJ's Columnist Disregarded About Haiti...the Facts

In a recent piece in The Wall Street Journal, Mary O'Grady makes the case for private investment in Haiti's booming apparel sector, citing Haiti's competitive advantages and the benefits and upward mobility apparel jobs bring to the Haitian people. As the President of Haiti's tripartite HOPE Commission, I represent industry, civil society and Haiti's public institutions in promoting our emerging assembly industry. I can speak first-hand regarding the real and robust opportunities this sector enjoys in my country.

What Mary O'Grady's piece missed, as have many news stories on Haiti, however, is the remarkable progress Haiti has made since the devastating earthquake. Indeed, she could have cited many well-established facts. In particular, she could have shared that the 5,327 Haitians employed at the Caracol Industrial Park have more than tripled their incomes compared to what they previously earned. And that the Caracol Park more than doubled employment in 2013 and again in 2014 and demand for space at the Caracol Park currently exceeds available buildings. That the Caracol Park generated $51 million in exports in 2014, a doubling over the prior year, bringing much needed foreign exchange to Haiti. Or one of the more compelling facts -- that through this unique public-private partnership, the Haitian Government partnered with donors and the private sector to train thousands of people who now are first-time job holders -- indeed, 80% of Caracol Park employees never had a job before.

The Caracol Park has more impact than just on those who work there though. In the wake of Caracol Park's growth, the Cap Haitien airport has been transformed from a small provincial airport to an international airport offering daily flights to the US by American Airlines. The Haitian Government is working in partnership with the US Government and IFC to renovate and extend the Cap-Haitien Port facilities to support the growth in the region as well. The studies have already begun and our objective is to have the Port ready by October 2015.

A new US-funded power plant is electrifying the Caracol Park and bringing reliable and consistent power to 40,000 people in local villages and towns -- for the first time. Significantly, the Caracol Industrial Park has revitalized our northern corridor, as evidenced by new gas stations and taxis, agribusinesses, beauty parlors, construction companies, schools, health clinics, and grocery stores. And, for the casual reader of publications about the Caracol Park, the 65,000 jobs encompasses those indirect jobs that are being created on the Caracol Park's path to being fully built out -- indirect jobs being created each day in the wake of higher purchasing power and strong regional growth.

Ms. O' Grady's piece also is silent regarding the highly trained team of Haitian economists, engineers, public negotiators and lawyers handpicked by the former and current Haitian President to lead the Caracol Park Project - deemed a national priority to create opportunity in what used to be one of the poorest regions in the world. Instead, she offers claims of waste and ineptitude, portraying Haiti as a country of malaise and inexplicably suggests the fate of our country rests in the hands of current and former U.S. Presidents and a U.S. Secretary of State. We value their partnership -- and what their hard work and commitment has helped us achieve -- but we are the captains of our country's fate. With their partnership and that of many other donors, including the IDB, we built the Caracol Park with public and private resources at a time when few investors would consider pure privately-financed developments and commercial banks were reluctant to lend. That is changing, and so it is important that we are clear-eyed, thorough in our analysis of where our work has succeeded and also where we can do better, and that we don't allow reporting done with a thesis before the facts to stand without correction.

Today, Haiti is ready for private investors and is actively seeking developers and manufacturers to build facilities at the Caracol Industrial Park. Together with private investors from Korea, Haiti and the U.S., the IDB and other donor partners, we have developed an industrial complex that is a strong foundation for job creation. Now it is time for private developers to further accelerate the rapid expansion the Caracol Park has enjoyed to date.