Despite corruption, crime and bureaucratic inefficiency, Haiti's economy is beginning to show signs of life with some manufacturing plants back in operation, a trickle of agricultural exports moving and even a few cruise ships returning, senior U.S. officials said Monday.
To reinforce Haiti's economic recovery, a high-level U.S. delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will travel to Port-au-Prince today with 28 U.S. business executives in tow. The Clinton Administration hopes the trip will persuade U.S. business to invest in Haiti.
"International (government) donors and lenders have already pledged $1.2 billion, and it's anticipated that $900 million of that total will be available over the next 12 to 15 months," Talbott said. "But a crucial part of the equation is private trade and investment."
Talbott conceded that U.S. business people are concerned about continued corruption, inefficiency and lawlessness in Haiti. But he said the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, restored to power last fall by the U.S. military, has begun to create conditions necessary for business to survive.
He said one objective of the trip is to let U.S. business people acquaint themselves with the security situation--"let them see for themselves and hear from both Haitians and from Americans and international workers who are down there."
Talbott and David Rothkopf, the Commerce Department's deputy undersecretary for international trade policy, plan to participate today in the inaugurations of an American commercial office and the U.S.-Haiti Business Development Council. On Wednesday, they plan to sign several new agreements on business cooperation.
"For democracy to be truly sustainable," Rothkopf said, "the people of Haiti have got to see hope, they have to see jobs being created, they have to see the new regime bringing to them some of the results that previous regimes have failed to offer to them."
He said that international assistance--governmental and private--will focus on power generation, telecommunications, assembly plants, agriculture and perhaps tourism.
Rothkopf said that about 35 firms, employing about 5,000 workers, have resumed operations in assembling such products as clothing, baseballs and electronics.