GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) can play a major role in Haiti and vice versa, Haitian president and current CARICOM chairman Michel Martelly told the media, noting that his country needs investments to develop.
The catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 affected about three million people and caused major damage to the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
Speaking on the issue of the free movement treaty that CARICOM has implemented, Martelly said that strategies have to be created such as not to have a mass exodus of its citizens. What are needed he said, are investments that can bring jobs to Haitians.
“Instead of having Haitians come here looking for jobs, why don’t entrepreneurs from here go to Haiti and create these jobs and both countries can benefit?” he asked.
Martelly, who was on a two-day visit to Guyana, described his trip as a very good one, but regretted leaving after two days as he wanted to see more of the country.
As chairman of CARICOM, he said that it was important for him to visit to headquarters to meet staffers and other key personnel.
“I held discussions with the secretary general and his executive management team on matters which came out from the highly successful and transitional meeting held in Haiti last month so that we could move forward on some of the decisions. These included food safety and accessibility, which is important as we seek to take advantage of the trade opportunities available globally and regionally so that our products would meet the standards demanded by the various countries,” he stated.
In fact, Haiti is taking the lead on this matter, he said, and in fact, last night that country’s ministers of trade and foreign affairs held discussions on this matter with their local counterparts, and with the secretary general and his technical team.
Other issues discussed included, “Follow up decisions regarding security, the reform process in CARICOM, preparation for transportation, the launch of the approved CARICOM Aid for Trade Strategy and a concentrated programme of assistance to help Haiti participate more fully in CARICOM,” Martelly said.
As a result of his visit, and after a series of high level talks with both government and CARICOM officials, the regional body will be visiting his country shortly on a fact finding mission. The team will be headed by CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque and intends to meet with key stakeholders in that country, including parliamentarians, officials, private sector and civil society.
The Haitian president speaking on the regional education sector, said, “We had a very good meeting in earlier in March with the Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and his team, The University of the West Indies and our Ministry of Education, and our Universities will be working together to strengthen tertiary education in Haiti.”
The Caribbean Examinations Council will also be engaged, Martelly said, in an attempt to lift that country’s educational standards.
Asked about the promised aid following the devastating earthquake that his country is still recovering from, the president said that Haiti is currently experiencing two situations; firstly much of that aid had not been delivered and secondly as the promised funds have not materialised his fellow countrymen and women are using the chance to escape from their dependency on aid and foreign assistance, and are showing how a major catastrophe can attract regional enterprises.
“Reinvigorate the energy sector, reinvigorate the agriculture sector, reinvigorate construction, we need ports, airports, roads, buildings, there are things that can be done, because what we want to do is create jobs for our people,” he told the media.
He added that of the monies allocated, his government has not been able to get any directly and was not even prepared to handle such an event.
The country is now better prepared for disasters as a civil defence unit has been set up, more emergency workers have been trained and there are more special police and relief workers. A building code has also been instituted and is now enforced.
The issue of the United Nations security mission, spending $800 million annually, raised serious questions for Martelly.
“I’m wondering if investing this money into reconstruction, development would have been a better investment because security yes but real insecurity will prevail when you have people who are not working, people who are looking for food, people who are hungry, and people who want to feel free,” he said.
He said that maybe it was time to convert the UN’s mission from that of security to one of development.
According to the Haitian president, his relationship with CARICOM is still growing and it is important that his people, as well the regional body understand and get to know each other better.