Some 20,000 jobs to be created at new industrial park in Haiti-Added COMMENTARY By Haitian-Truth

U.S.  Haiti team up with Korean garment firm to create 20,000 jobs and country’s first fabric mill.

By Jacqueline Charles

CARACOL, Haiti — Standing in the middle of the dirt-poor rural village on a cool afternoon, the neatly dressed Korean garment tycoon surveyed the rugged mountaintops and surrounding bean fields as he tried to envision the future a year from now.

But it wasn’t until Kim Woong Ki stared into the curious faces surrounding him that the chairman of Korea’s leading manufacturer and exporter of textiles and clothing, realized the real value of his $78 million business investment decision.

“I didn’t really set out to bring people hope,’’ Kim said, as he rode away from the village on Haiti’s northern coast halfway between the cities of Cap-Haitien and Ouanaminthe. “Coming here, seeing the site and walking among the people, I realized that what I’m going to do here in creating the factory and the jobs, is give people hope.’’

A major supplier to U.S. retailers Target, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and GAP, Sae-A is expanding its garment-making operations to Haiti as the anchor tenant in a new 617-acre industrial park being created in the country’s underdeveloped northern region. For the first time, Haiti’s 2 million-a-week T-shirt-stitching industry will also include the country’s only knit and dyeing mill with Sae-A pumping 6,000 tons of ground water a day for its export operations.

“For the first time ever, apparel sewn in Haiti will be using fabric made in Haiti,’’ said Kim, whose company already has operations in Guatemala and Nicaragua.

With the company gearing up to recruit Haitian managers as early as next month for a planned March 2012 opening, the deal is already having a multiplier effect. Local hotel and restaurant owners are optimistic, as are potential workers like 23-year-old Luckner Peter, about the possibility of 20,000 new jobs in the area. Luckner was among dozens of young men hired by the government at 50 cents a hole to help install a fence around the property.

“This is going to change our community,’’ said Louicot Alexandre, president of the chamber of commerce for Northeast Haiti, a region of about 300,000 residents. “This shows that Haiti is prepared to do business with the world, and it’s OK to do business with Haiti.’’

Valued at about $300 million, the job-creation package is one of Haiti’s biggest foreign investments. U.S. officials call it an “unprecedented collaboration’’ between the Haitian and U.S. governments, and the Inter-American Development Bank. So much is at stake that some Haiti observers mused that it was perhaps one of the reasons for the United States’ heavy involvement in the Nov. 28 presidential election debacle. Twice before, Kim had tried to invest in Haiti. Each time, his decision was thwarted. There was political turmoil in 1994 after he signed a memorandum of understanding and then the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake shortly after another trip.

“We have in our business proposal a huge chapter called hurdles and obstacles,’’ said Lon Garwood, advisor to Kim. “Our initial business proposal didn’t look like a business proposal. It looked like why we can’t do business in Haiti.’’

But that was before the U.S. government stepped in, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal plea on behalf of Haiti during a Korea visit.

With the Haitian government donating the land and compensating farmers, the U.S. plans to build 5,000 houses, a 25-megawatt electricity grid for the park and surrounding area, and a waste and water treatment plant as part of its $124 million contribution. The Inter-American Development Bank is contributing over $100 million for construction of buildings and roads.

“These kinds of investment deals are incredibly hard,’’ said Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, who has been credited with leading the effort for more than a year to bring together all sides including Haiti’s private sector. “They take prolonged coordination and consultation, and accommodation and negotiation. But ultimately what they really take is an audacious amount of faith.’’

It is this faith, the U.S. and others are banking on as they seek to revive Haiti’s post-earthquake shattered economy by helping the nation’s garment industry take better advantage of U.S.-Congress approved duty-free trade legislation. Once boasting 100,000 jobs, the industry has just 28,000. About 9,000 of those were created because of the removal of tariffs.

Last May, a sympathetic Congress extended the trade benefits to 2020.

Now Haiti’s private sector is hoping to attract 60,000 new jobs with the industrial park in the north. They are also eyeing another park in the south, just outside of the quake-ravaged capital of Port-au-Prince.

“We are no longer talking just about garment assembly. We are talking about a true textile industry short of planting cotton. That is what is being developed,’’ said Georges Sassine, who is also responsible for implementing the U.S. Congress-approved duty-free legislation benefiting the garment industry.

Sae-A’s revenues are more than doubled Haiti’s garment industry’s $512 million exports for 2009. In addition to Haitian managers, the company has committed to pay line workers at least four times Haiti’s average $640 GDP per capita. The facility itself will boast a cooling system, recreational facilities and a football field. With the construction bid package currently being prepared to go out next month, the first phase has already been laid out. Sae-A’s operations will occupy 126 of 185 acres, said Mark D’Sa, a Miami-based executive with GAP who has been on loan with the State Department to help Haiti better take advantage of trade legislation.

D’Sa said other potential clients include a furniture maker and two other apparel companies. Not far from the site, and separate from the industrial park, the Dominican government is planning to build a university.

Still, the deal has detractors with some protesting using farmland for what some are calling “sweatshops.’’ Government officials say the land belongs to the state and compensation packages are being worked out for farmers who have been illegally living off it.

“We have sought investments outside of Port-au-Prince for years,’’ said Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. “In Haiti, the real tough infrastructure investments in energy, ports, and industrial zones have largely been avoided. It’s these investments that will generate the productive base of which Haiti can grow and prosper economically.’’



There will be the usual cries of “Sweat Shop” from those who have three meals per day, two expensive cars, kids in good schools, pension plans and holiday trips.

The reality of things is much different.

You cannot judge the Haitian economy on the basis of America.

What seems to be a very low wage in America, is a moderate wage in Haiti.

There was a case in which a bunch of do-gooders attacked a  baseball manufacturer in Haiti which employed 300 workers. These workers each supported about 10 people. In other words, these 300 jobs had a direct influence on the survival of at least 3000 people.

The do-gooders attacked. They got the American baseball players to refuse…”The would not use the baseball’s made with the blood of Haitian workers…” And so, the factory closed, 3000 people went hungry and the factory moved to Costa Rico where the balls are made “With the blood of Costa Rican workers…” but no one cares.

Work is important…generating income where there is no income.

A successful business will attract more businesses.

Let Haiti survive.

Allow the Haitians an opportunity to work and feed their families.


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3 thoughts on “Some 20,000 jobs to be created at new industrial park in Haiti-Added COMMENTARY By Haitian-Truth

  1. The problem is more complicated that what you pose. Nobody can be against jobs in Haiti. The problem is a living wage. Three dollars a day is a pittance, even in Haiti. The prices in Haiti are not that much different from the US for basic items yet the wages are abysmal in comparison. Therein lies the problem. To be sure, rice is cheap by American standards but very expensive by Haitian standards. Of course, it is unthinkable for a Haitian working at a sweetshop to even set foot in something like the Caribbean Market ( at least when it was standing), let alone buying much there.
    The real way for Haitian peasants to have a better life is to put tariffs on American rice imports and get the people back to the land. This might be bad for the Apaids and Bakers but better for the very poor. 60,000 jobs, mostly starvation wages, sounds good but a more sound agricultural policy would affect the lives of millions. However, this would fly in the face of American and “Apaidian” interests. Hence, I expect sweat shops will trump agricultural justice. That is what good old Bill Clinton’s proposes, even as he admits the error of forcing American rice down Haitian throats. So much for free trade!

  2. Bravo!
    Export markets bring money into regions that didn’t have it to begin with.
    It’s that simple.
    Industrial investment creates far more good that most foreign aid. It serves to break the cycle of poverty, rather than only function as a near-term safety net. It’s one thing to place a child in an orphanage, educate and feed them. It is another challenge to create an economy that can receive them when they are 18 and ready to be on their own.

  3. Between raising the price on hand labor and avoiding manufactures to abandon Haiti there is one thing that is extremely important. We need immediate job creations.keep our marcket,yes our neiboor Dominican republic has taken a lot of advanges due to our lack of government,but now we can get our market back once nd for alll cause our hand labors are more effective and in greater demands. Which is ,e have the greatest opportunities to gain the market that we have throughn away.Sorry guys,there are too many haitian working dominican land for free just to be given shelter and food on the same land they risk their life for and watch. Te time has come,we have to change things.let make it happen.No more time to waist.If you can afford it,take an all inclusive wee end to the Dominican,then you will understand what I mean by saying hsitians works Dominican me Haitian hand labor is more effective we can use that to shorten thet time we need to get updated onnthe today market.

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