Latortue calls on UNIDO to come and help Haiti

Posted on Monday 28 November 2005

By Charles Arthur

Vienna, 28 Nov. 05 [AlterPresse] --- Addressing the opening session of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Vienna, Austria, interim prime minister, Gérard Latortue, today said the UN agency should end its
neglect of Haiti.

At a press conference the same day, Latortue told AlterPresse
that he would be speaking to the current UNIDO director-general, Dr.
Carlos Magariños, and his designated successor, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella,
while in Vienna, and would ask the agency to assist in three particular
areas. "UNIDO can help with investment, and specifically with the
construction and agro-industry sectors," he stated.

Regarding the first focal point, Latortue said his government had
recently established a facilitating office to help potential investors
get around administrative and structural obstacles, and UNIDO could
help to consolidate this office.

As for the construction industry, the prime minister said that with
UNIDO’s help, Haiti could revive its cement production, and within five
years could transform itself from an importer to an exporter of cement.
Mr Latortue also noted that Haiti needs to produce its own cement as
part of the effort to construct more roads throughout the country. "In
Haiti, we need cement roads because we don’t produce asphalt and, in
any case, such roads don’t survive in Haiti because we have no
maintenance culture. "

Thirdly, he drew attention to a new partnership with the government of
Brazil to transform tropical fruits into more easily marketable
exports. For example, he said UNIDO could provide expertise and advice
on ways to transform mangoes - which often perish before they can be
delivered to export markets - into juice or dried fruit which can then
be transported to overseas markets much more easily.

Latortue told AlterPresse that he hopes to conclude a protocol of
agreement with UNIDO later today, and that he would be inviting a UNIDO
assessment mission to visit the country in January 2006 to prepare for
the eventual establishment of a field office in Haiti.

During his address to the opening session of the UNIDO conference, Latortue noted that UNIDO - which is responsible for promoting
industrialization throughout the developing world - had been
"practically absent" from Haiti over the last ten years.

The interim prime minister, who himself worked for UNIDO for
twenty-two years, said that now that the country is "in the process of
a successful transition to democracy by organizing free and fair
elections on 8 January and 15 February 2006, the time has come for
UNIDO to consider setting up an office in Haiti, from where it can
cover the whole Caribbean region".

Latortue said that, as the only Least Developed Country in the
Latin America and Caribbean region, Haiti needs UNIDO.

Latortue had expressed his hope that UNIDO would join with the UNDP and
other friends of Haiti in implementing the Interim Cooperation
Framework (ICF) for economic development. Questioned on the lack of
civil society consultation during the ICF process in 2004, Mr Latortue
remembered that US President Clinton had once labeled these people, the
"Morally Repugnant Elite". He stated that the private sector had failed
to do anything for economic development in Haiti for decades, but that
as soon as there were discussions on economic planning, the chambers of
commerce from certain regions in the country wanted to exercise control.

When asked about the failure of the ICF process to consult with civil
society organizations representing the majority population, such as
peasant organizations and local non-governmental organizations, Latortue replied, "There really aren’t many organizations of that type
in Haiti. There are really very few peasant organizations. But I do
work with Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the leader of the Papay Peasant
Movement (MPP), and, as far as peasant organizations go, he is the one."

The interim prime minister told AlterPresse that Chavannes
Jean-Baptiste was one of his many consultants, and that many other
experts who had been ignored by the Aristide government were now being
consulted. He said, "We have made a start at consultation, and let’s
say its about 10-15%. I hope the next government takes it forward to

Finally, returning to the question of economic development in Haiti,
Mr Latortue said he was hopeful that the HOPE Act [1] - US legislation to
give textiles assembled in Haiti preferential access to the US market -
would be passed by the US Congress before the end of the year. This
measure would, he said, go some way to restoring the health of the
textile assembly industry in Haiti.

He also stressed that an improvement in the security situation, and
the completion of an ambitious road-building program, would hopefully
permit Haiti to benefit from a revival in tourism. "We have an huge
island the size of Guadeloupe, just off the coast of Port-au-Prince,
that is virgin territory", said Latortue. "Imagine a golf course
and hotels on La Gonâve, - the same sort of development that they have
at Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic!"

Responding to a question from the Austrian state television company,
ORF, about his plans for the future in relation to the repeatedly
delayed elections to elect a new government, Latortue said he would
resign on 7 February 2006 as he had always said he would. "We will hold
the reins until the new government takes power on 24 February, but
there will be no new initiatives or new legislation after 7 February." [ca gp apr 11/28/2005 11:35]

[1The HOPE Act is the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through
Partnership Encouragement Act