HAITI

Government woos foreign investors

Potential foreign investors are taking part in a two-day meeting in Haiti, organised at the suggestion of the UN's special envoy to Haiti, former US president Bill Clinton, to explore business opportunities in the poorest country in the Americas.

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AFP - Touting increased stability, Haiti called Thursday on international investors to take advantage of the improved security situation in the country and bring foreign capital to the nation.

"Today, I can say that the conditions are right for us to welcome investments in Haiti. Security has been established. We need you to create jobs in the country," said Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis.

More than 200 potential foreign investors are participating in a two day meeting with Haitian entrepreneurs, exploring business opportunities in the country.

The meeting, which has attracted investors from throughout the Americas, was organized by the Inter-American Development Bank, at the suggestion of former US president Bill Clinton.

The former US leader serves as special envoy to Haiti for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The international organization has played a key role in the stabilization of Haiti, maintaining security in part through a peacekeeping force.

"This is a moment of great opportunity. This is a moment of opportunity for investors to come, to make profit and export to other markets, but for the people of Haiti too," said Clinton, who is traveling with the investors on the trip.

"I can tell you the political risk in Haiti is lower that it has ever been in my lifetime," the former president said, adding that he and the Haitian government would work to accommodate any requests by investors.

Haiti is also hoping to improve its tourism industry, which is thought to be a sector that could help drive economic development in the country.

Clinton called on the investors to help promote Haiti's image abroad as a tourist destination.

"I ask all of you who are here today to help me to do one thing... to promote a positive visibility of Haiti," he said. "When you leave here, tell people what you saw, tell people what you felt."

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, with 60 percent of the workforce unemployed and living on less than two dollars a day. But the former US president's visit with international investors is seen as a hopeful sign by Haitians that their country has better days ahead.

"We're in the process of going from being an aid recipient to a private investment destination. This meeting is an extraordinary thing for the country," said Reynold Bonefil, a Haitian businessman.

"Haiti has chosen good government practices in both economics and politics," said Commerce Minister Marie-Josee Garnier, adding that the country was firmly on the path to progress.

On the sidelines of his work wooing investors, Clinton signed an agreement with Haitian President Reve Preval that will see the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) set up an office in the country.

In a statement, the Clinton Foundation said CHAI would "provide on-the-ground programmatic and technical support to the government of Haiti, to help expand access to HIV/AIDS care and treatment services and strengthen the systems required to deliver primary health care services."

"I am confident that by using the same approach that is currently helping two million people access lifesaving treatment around the world, we can achieve the same success in Haiti," Clinton said.

"I look forward to working alongside the government of Haiti to strengthen health systems and save more lives."

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