Haiti gets $2M grant to help create jobs
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Haiti's devastated economy will receive a boost of $2 million through a grant from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund to help regenerate the country's small business sector.
The Caribbean nation is still reeling under the effect of last year's earthquake, several natural disasters before that and years of poor governance.
A magnitude-7 temblor hit Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas Jan. 12, 2010, causing extensive damage, and killing an estimated 220,000.
The country's Parliament, presidential palace and many other important structures were destroyed, along with countless homes and businesses. Ten months later an outbreak of cholera killed hundreds more.
The money pledged by the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund will go to non-profit organization TechnoServe to implement a Haitian Business Accelerator project that aims to transform small and growing businesses into investment-ready, bankable companies that can be positioned to develop Haiti's formal economy and promote jobs.
Haiti's informal economy and black market in all essential sectors pose a challenge to international aid-givers and benefactors.
The project is expected to last three years, a period that TechnoServe and HBA will use to work with businesses they see as worthy of investment and hope to transform them into businesses that are ready for investment.
TechnoServe has more than 1,000 Haitian businesses within its sights and plans to work with a selection of 750 entrepreneurs most suited for success. It plans to "train this elite group with global best practices in business development," the fund said.
"Haiti's formal business sector is very small and businesses of all sizes have suffered significantly since last year's earthquake," fund Vice President for Programs and Investments Paul Altidor said.
"Small and growing enterprises hold the potential for transforming Haiti's economy but these enterprises need business acumen and access to financial services in order to attract the private investment they need to develop. The Business Accelerator will help them do just that," Altidor said.
The fund says it is also working with TechnoServe's Haiti Hope Project, which aims to increase the income of 25,000 small farming families in the mango sector. TechnoServe recently completed a business plan competition called "Mon Entreprise, Mon Avenir" -- "My Business, My Future" in French -- guiding more than 80 promising Haitian entrepreneurs.
The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund was founded after the 2010 earthquake, when U.S. President Barack Obama asked former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to lead a major fundraising effort to assist Haitians to "build back better."
With help from Clinton and Bush, the fund, raised cash for humanitarian relief and began independent operations in May last year to help promote sustainable reconstruction. The latest grant is part of that effort.
However, Haitian politics are far from stable. Violent confrontations between rival gangs and political groups are endemic and the human rights situation is reported by U.N. experts as "catastrophic."
None of the international efforts undertaken since the earthquake and cholera outbreak have addressed an underlying source of unrest and instability -- the income gap between the impoverished Creole-speaking black majority and the French-speaking minority, 1 percent of Haiti's population of 9.7 million but said to be in control of nearly half the country's wealth.
Although Haiti is rich in many natural resources including bauxite, gold and silver, it subsists on mango and coffee exports and foreign aid, much of it from the United States, Canada and the European Union, that funds up to 40 percent of the government budget. Despite numerous measures by aid-givers, corruption is still a major issue in Haiti.
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