By Rachel Belt
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Haitian prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, said this week that Haiti has become one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean, that the doing-business environment and education accessibility have improved, while a strategic development plan has been set up to create sustainable jobs, attract investments, and fight extreme poverty and social exclusion.
Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative
Lamothe, who was speaking on Wednesday at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting in New York, said his government has so far provided tuition-free education to 1.2 million Haitian kids and plans to send 1.3 million additional children to school, while programs are being implemented to empower vulnerable families and improve further the security environment.
"Haiti went from being one of the most difficult places to be to become one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean," Lamothe told an audience comprised of entrepreneurs, philanthropists, humanitarians, government and NGO representatives from around the world.
The Haitian prime minister called on Haiti's partners to continue to support efforts to bring about change and complete the reconstruction process in the 2010 quake-ravaged country where destruction was estimated at over US$13 billion.
"Thank you for all the efforts and I know you have Haiti in your heart. Stay the course because we'll need your continued support and solidarity not only for the next one or 2 years, but for the 20 years to come," Lamothe said.
"Staying focused is recipe for success," he stated.
According to the government, 400 km of road are going to be built on top of the 300 km already built or repaired, 500,000 adults will be added to the literacy program this year, 50,000 jobs will be created through an initiative to collect plastic water bottles and foam plates, while the northern Caracol industrial park plans to employ several dozen thousand Haitians.
"I know some of you are frustrated by the red tape and sometimes the time that it takes to get projects done, but we are doing a lot of effort to correct the problems," Lamothe told investors in the audience."
"Things have improved, you can now open a business rapidly, we have preregistered companies and my government stands ready to help you so you may help us," said Lamothe.
US$225 million in direct foreign investments, representing a 19% increase from last year, have been injected, ten government buildings are under construction, while a project to repair and paint 10,000 homes, including several thousand already completed, is underway in the slum area of Jalousie, as part of a broader neighborhood renovation project.
Lamothe said the energy sector remains a big challenge for his government that is considering privatizing services to ensure effectiveness and self-sustainability. Today, the functioning of the national electricity company, chronically in deficit, is widely subsidized by the State treasury.
"We need to reduce the cost of electricity, improve access and coverage, while also privatizing the sector," he explained.
"We'll focus our attention on that issue during the next two years in order to get that right," Lamothe added.
From 2010, over $300 million were invested in the country through the Haiti Action Network chaired by the owner of the Digicel cell phone company, Denis O'Brien.