OTTAWA, May 13, CMC – Despite Haiti’s chequered past, including the 2010 earthquake, and ‘obsolete’ views held abroad, the country’s first ambassador to Canada in nearly six years, Frantz Liautaud, has said here his country is ready for international investment.
Liautaud, a former businessman and recent president of the Haitian-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, told reporters here that many views about his country are obsolete and have held back the nation’s ability to wean itself off foreign aid.
“What we need to do is change our image and make sure people get the right image,” he said, adding that Haiti may have a willing partner in the Conservative Canadian government, which is expected to begin pumping tens of millions of dollars in aid for economic development.
Singer-turned-president Michel Martelly, who marks his first anniversary in office on Monday, had made the attraction of foreign investment a top priority, Liataud said, as a way to tackle a jobless rate of 40 per cent.
The new envoy said this involves promoting the country’s coastline as a tourist destination, as well as the opportunities available in farming and natural resources, among others.
“The Martelly government was clear from Day One that for Haiti to get back into the position it should have in the region and in the world, we have to increase investment in Haiti,” said Liautaud.
Liautaud acknowledged concerns about risks to investment in Haiti, from security issues and a lack of trained workers to vulnerability to natural disasters and political instability, but said many are overstated.
He said security has improved significantly in recent years, adding that opportunities are available for those willing to invest.
“The first impression is it’s too risky,” Liautaud said. “But obviously the bigger the risk, the bigger the opportunity to get a good return on your investment.”
With the end of Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan, Haiti has become Canada’s largest recipient of international assistance, receiving more than 100 million US dollars a year.
But Liautaud said Canadian officials have informed him that more of that aid will be tied to economic development.
“From the reading that I have (this) is exactly what the Canadian government is looking into, making sure that whatever money is invested in Haiti is invested to create sustainable economic development,” he said.
“There is no sustainable economic development without social peace,” Liautaud added. “So it’s a balancing act. But what Haitians as a whole need the most is to be put to work.”