It has been three years since Haiti experienced one of the most severe natural catastrophes in recorded history. Just over a week ago, millions of Haitians commemorated this tragedy in honour of family members, friends and colleagues they lost on Jan. 12, 2010.
After three years, some of you are asking: Why continue to help Haiti with donations or even through government aid? Has the money really helped the country, since it still seems to be faced with so many problems?
First, let me thank you for your help. Canadians have been very generous toward Haiti after the earthquake and, thanks to you, our most vulnerable people have received food, drinkable water, shelter, medical care and education. For that, we are extremely grateful.
Also, you should know that Haiti is in a better position today than it was 20 months earlier, when President Michel Martelly took office.
We still face many problems and challenges, but nearly 80 per cent of the people living in camps after the earthquake are now returning to their communities, while 95 per cent of the debris has been collected. We started rebuilding our ministries and other public administration buildings, as well as our schools and hospitals. We have launched significant programs, such as social safety nets for the most vulnerable, subsidized by the government itself, and they have already reached more than four million people in 2012.
We have dismantled five of the largest criminal organizations in the country, and this is reflected in our crime statistics. We are strengthening our police force, and technological resources. Haiti has the same homicide rate as Long Beach, Calif.
We have introduced free education at the primary level, and 1.27-million children now attend school free of charge. For many of them, this is the first time. We will also teach reading and writing to more than 300,000 adults in 2013.
We rebuilt the main airport in Port-au-Prince and are upgrading three others near tourism centres. We are building hundreds of kilometres of roads. We are investing in health care and drinkable water, and we have put in place a plan to eradicate cholera. In the last week of December, cholera cases accounted for only 7 per cent from the peak reached in 2011.
We have maintained a stable economy, and have opened a new industrial park in the north of the country. Foreign investments were up 21 per cent in 2012, compared with 2011.
This brings me to my third point. Although we are very grateful, we would prefer not being dependent on your goodwill. What we really want, what we would prefer above all, is that your private sector invests in Haiti to create jobs that would generate much-needed tax revenue for the government. What we would prefer is that you spend your holidays in Haiti to support the tourism industry. You are welcome, and you will be safe.
It will take time before our government’s vision bears fruit, and we need your help to get there.
The earthquake marked us, without a doubt. But it does not define us. Haiti is not a case study in development. Haiti is 10.4-million people, of whom 35 per cent are children under 15. The country has always had great potential – and this is still the case. Our ill fortune has long been a matter of bad governance. And now things have changed.
There is a new government, and a new approach to doing things that is dedicated to fixing past mistakes.
We are working tirelessly to curb corruption. We have reduced administrative costs in order to maximize the impact of programs in key sectors.
To face our challenges, we have defined a national strategic development plan. We know what is wrong, and are working toward overcoming our challenges. We seek nothing less than to support our people and care for them. We need partners like Canada to achieve this.
We want our nation to rise. For the moment, we can’t do it without your help.
Laurent Lamothe is the Prime Minister of Haiti.