Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe (R) speaks at the inauguration, with lawmaker Jean Fenel Tanis. Photo: Phil Holsinger
By Yves Paul Leandre and Daniel Dieujuste
PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Infrastructure works and social projects on the unspoiled Haitian southern island of Ile-a-Vache are underway within the framework of a plan to turn the beautiful piece of land into a top international tourist destination as the Caribbean country's leadership banks on tourism to help fight poverty.
The Haitian government has committed $18.5 million to fund works aimed at implementing social projects and creating the basic infrastructure to facilitate national and international investments in the tourism sector on the island.
"This is a project which will transform the island and improve living conditions for its inhabitants who will have more access to jobs, services and business opportunities," Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told HCNN in a weekend interview.
"The farmers, with government support, will be able to expand agricultural production on the island because they will have a guaranteed market for their agricultural and fishing products," said Lamothe, reminding about the villas and beach resorts that are part of the island's development plan.
The Haitian government is also implementing social projects to help the 15,0000 people living on the island to have a better access to basic services and other opportunities in sectors, such as health, potable water, schooling, social assistance, vocational training.
A community center with a computer lab and a conference room, a community radio and restaurant have been built, and roads and an international airport are under construction on the island.
However, there have concerns and rumbling discontent on the part of several local groups of inhabitants who believed the government had planned to move them or even expel them from the island and such rumours were fueled by particular identified individuals.
"No one will be expelled from Ile-a-Vache. These allegations are false because we want the population to participate and to be the first beneficiaries of the project," said Lamothe.
The minister of tourism, Stephanie Villedrouin, explained that only ten families will be moved for now to other places to facilitate the construction of the airport runway, and they will be compensated for the destruction of their homes and they will be granted other sites on the island for the reconstruction of their homes.
There are about 2,500 houses on the island, but only 180 will be destroyed to facilitate the implementation of the project.
"We want everybody to remain calm because we'll make sure everyone is taken care of," Villedrouin told HCNN.
"The government will provide adequate compensation to all those who will be relocated and we'll accompany them to make they are okay," assured Villedrouin.
Lamothe and Villedrouin met on Friday with several local leaders to provide additional information on the development of the project.