Published on Saturday, January 30, 2010 by The Nation
'New Haiti,' Same Corporate Interests
by Isabel Macdonald
In the wake of the earthquake that has killed more than 100,000 people in Haiti, the foreign ministers of several countries calling themselves the "Friends of Haiti" met on Monday in Montreal to discuss plans for "building a new Haiti." Participants in the Ministerial Preparatory Conference on Haiti, who included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; representatives of international financial institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive came to what Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, the conference chair, referred to as a "road map towards Haiti's reconstruction and development." However, the Latin American countries of ALBA--the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas--who held a counter-conference, and several grassroots Haiti solidarity organizations, who organized protests outside the conference, expressed skepticism that the "Friends of Haiti" and the international financial institutions would work to further the interests of ordinary Haitians.
The West Indies Free Zone "tax-exempt plants assembling for export, which are known as maquiladoras in Spanish. "The investment climate [in Haiti] is much warmer than the temperature in this room," Canadian ambassador Gilles Rivard remarked at a conference, with North American apparel firms—Gap, Levi Strauss and American Eagle Outfitters and from Citibank and Scotiabank. The New York Times correspondent noted that "Haiti's extremely low labor costs, comparable to those in Bangladesh," are what "make it so appealing." (NYT, Oct. 5)"
Interest in Haiti's maquiladora sector seems to have grown after the government turned back efforts earlier this year to raise the minimum wage in the industry to 200 gourdes a day (about $4.97)".