Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Monday is visiting Haiti with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and others for the official opening of a $300 million industrial park in the earthquake-ravaged Caribbean nation that is intended to create thousands of jobs and help transform the economy of the impoverished nation.
Monday's ceremonies mark the opening of Carocol Industrial Park, a public-private partnership in Cap-Haitien, on the northern coast. The first major tenant is a South Korean textile firm, and a paint manufacturer recently became the second sizable employer to join the project. Haiti, with a population of about 10 million, is among the poorest in the world, with joblessness of about 60 percent.
The visit is part of Leahy's ongoing oversight of U.S.-assisted relief and redevelopment efforts in Haiti. Leahy, who chairs the Senate panel that handles the budgets for the State Department and U.S. foreign assistance, was asked by Clinton to travel with her to Monday's events, which include tours of the new facilities. Leahy's Appropriations Committee panel on the State Department and Foreign Operations has budgeted nearly a billion dollars in humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, including $124 million for the Carocol development, the single most ambitious redevelopment project of the U.S. effort.
As part of his oversight role Leahy and wife Marcelle have been to Haiti for three earlier visits, including two since the earthquake, in which they also met with Vermont groups helping with projects that range from medical care to providing clean water. They also visited a facility supported by the Leahy War Victims Fund, which has helped those who lost limbs in the quake.
Also participating in Monday's events is U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White, a graduate of Brattleboro's School for International Training.
Leahy said, "Secretary Clinton has made Haiti's recovery a priority, and she and her staff have put enormous time and work into these efforts. Private investment is one key to developing Haiti's economy, and this private-public partnership is intended to help jump-start this long process. This industrial park holds much promise, but there are many hurdles ahead that will test its lasting impact. Many decades of redevelopment efforts in Haiti have been burdened by lack of basic infrastructure and social services such as education, housing, medical care and a functioning justice system, and government corruption has contributed as well in derailing earlier large-scale projects. This project also presents environmental challenges which need to be responsibly resolved. Helping Haiti emerge will require consistent effort and oversight, and I wanted to see these latest efforts for myself."