The actor/humanitarian said the country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, deserves outside investment.
Sean Penn called out the media — especially “left-leaning media” — for not covering good news coming from Haiti, which, he says, remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere but one with a growing economy and tourism industry, and deserving of outside investment.
“This is a miracle unreported,” Penn said of investment opportunity in Haiti. “No one is asking for a handout. It’s not a beggar culture. Everyone is asking for a job.”
Penn was at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles on Monday. He has been an advocate for Haiti since the country was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake in 2010. He is founder and CEO of J/P Haitian Relief Organization.
Penn compared Haitian relief to moviemaking.
“Especially in emergency relief — the best time to get the set built is yesterday,” he said. “It’s like the movie business, but with higher stakes.”
In his early work in Haiti, he concluded, like in the film business, “there were too many meetings and not enough decisions being made,” so he co-founded his organization.
He acknowledged Haiti as a work in progress with too much corruption and crime, though he added: “Common sense is available in the political process.”
“It’s that tangible place that has been so long disregarded,” said Penn. “Geographically, it’s very practical to get involved with Haiti.”
Margaret Brennan of CBS News hosted the panel discussion, which also included Denis O’Brien, chairman of the Digicel Group.
“I would invest in Haiti every day of the week,” O’Brien said.
“I’m life committed in Haiti to never make a dollar off Haiti,” Penn said, adding he’s not averse to helping others make a profit in the country, as long as they buy him dinner afterward.