Treasury Notes

 Opportunity for Youth is the Key to Haiti’s Future

By: Marisa Lago
4/12/2013

I recently returned from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) annual meeting.  During this meeting, the IDB reaffirmed its commitment to Haiti, which historically has been its largest creditor.  Not only has the IDB cancelled Haiti’s debt, it is also providing $200 million in grants per year for 10 years.  I was especially pleased to vote for this year’s $200 million grants transfer, since I had recently traveled to Haiti.  The purpose of my trip to Port-au-Prince was to observe the progress of international reconstruction efforts and to engage with my counterparts in the Haitian government.  I also wanted to see how U.S. contributions to the multilateral development banks’ projects were helping in the ongoing efforts to support reconstruction and promote economic growth.     

IDEJEN_Training_Center.JPGThrough the IDB and the World Bank, the United States Government is investing in the seeds for greater prosperity in Haiti over the long term.  In the immediate aftermath of the quake, compassion compelled us to contribute to the urgent disaster response.  Now, our funding of IDB and World Bank projects supports Haiti’s efforts to rebuild in a way that reduces poverty levels, improves living conditions, provides worker training, and increases the number of jobs in the Haitian economy.  These investments are designed to help the Haitian economy become increasingly self-reliant.

One of the critical areas that these investment projects have focused on, with the support of the Haitian government, is in education.  When I was in Haiti, I visited an IDB Multilateral Investment Fund project in Corail, a town on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.  The project helps finance a vocational training school where at-risk youth are taught technical skills that will prepare them for employment as electricians, masons, and mechanics.  I was impressed by the students’ commitment to their technical studies, which aim to provide them an alternative path to a better future.    

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World Bank programs are similarly providing job placement assistance to help Haitians find work near where they live, as well as financial counseling to help families achieve and sustain a higher standard of living than before the earthquake.  The process of helping displaced residents find new homes is emotional and can be challenging.  Constructing homes is one step, but the efforts of our development bank partners to improve child and youth education and job training, connecting these services to the resettlement process, will be essential to creating economically vibrant and rooted communities.

Caribbean_Craft_Tour_2.JPGWomen play a critical role in the Haitian economy.  They frequently serve not only as the bedrocks of their families, but also as entrepreneurs seeking to generate additional income for their families.  During my trip, I visited a company under female ownership that produces Haitian handicrafts for export.  The owner explained that, after her production facility was destroyed by the earthquake, she requested aid from the IDB’s Inter-American Investment Corporation to help rebuild her business.  The financing that she received has helped to keep her company’s artisans employed and to provide them with a free meal daily.  This determined entrepreneur has already helped to showcase to the world a variety of beautiful Haitian handicrafts, including metal sculptures, hand-painted papier-maché crafts, stone carvings and baskets.  Today, she is well on her way to reaching her goal of providing 1,000 jobs to artisans across Haiti.

After visiting these investment projects, I met with my government counterparts in Port-au-Prince.  Haiti’s Finance Minister Jean-Marie, one of several women in the 22 member cabinet, applauded U.S. support and thanked Treasury for the expert advice provided by our Office of Technical Assistance (OTA). 

Despite progress, enormous challenges remain for Haiti – but I remain bullish on Haiti’s opportunities.  I expressed to Finance Minister Jean-Marie my confidence that Haiti’s future can improve, as long as leaders act in a transparent way and remain resolute in their determination to implement a thoughtful development strategy. When economic development unfolds properly, every generation should be able to expect a future for its children that is better than what it experienced.

 

Marisa Lago is the Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development ​at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. 

Posted in:  International Affairs
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