PORT-AU-PRINCE – Authorities of the Haitian government and the U.S. State Department and executives of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Korean textile manufacturer Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd. today signed a framework agreement to support the creation of an industrial park in northern Haiti.
Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and President Bill Clinton, co-chairs of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, attended the signing ceremony held at the SONAPI industrial park on the eve of the anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. Haiti Finance Minister Ronald Baudin, State Department Counselor and Chief of Staff Cheryl D. Mills, IDB Haiti Country Manager Jose Agustin Aguerre and Sae-A Chairman Woong Ki Kim signed the document.
The agreement will underpin the development of a globally competitive industrial park to be built on a site between the northern cities of Cap Haitien and Ouanaminthe.
Through grants made to Haiti, the IDB will support the construction of the industrial park’s buildings, internal roads, electricity and water distribution networks and water treatment plant. The U.S. government will underwrite the construction of a power generating facility to supply the park and its surrounding area, as well as a housing program for the industrial park’s workers.
The industrial park will serve as a location for manufacturers from around the world looking to leverage the unique trade preferences the United States has granted Haiti. Sae-A, a major supplier to U.S. retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Gap and Levi’s, plans to hire as many as 20,000 workers over time, becoming the largest private sector employer in Haiti.
Haitian authorities are in talks with two other Korean firms as well as with companies from the United States, Brazil and Switzerland in various industrial sectors that have expressed interest in the industrial park, which could eventually host as many as 50,000 workers in an area where most people depend on subsistence farming.
The industrial park project is part of a broader regional development plan put forward by Haiti after the earthquake. The IDB will support those efforts by financing projects to boost agricultural productivity, including land titling, irrigation and farm extension services. The plan also calls for the development of the northern region’s tourism attractions, such as the Citadelle, a mountaintop fortress built after Haiti’s independence war.
Support for private sector development
The IDB is working on several fronts to help Haiti boost private sector output and employment. Over the past year it approved a $20 million grant for the Haitian Central Bank’s partial credit guarantee program to restructure loans to companies hit by the earthquake. The Multilateral Investment Fund launched an emergency liquidity mechanism for Haitian microlenders. The Inter-American Investment Corporation will oversee a program funded by Spain to provide financing and business development services to Haitian small and medium-size enterprises.