PORT-AU-PRINCE – Haiti’s Interim Reconstruction Commission, co-chaired by former US President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive met today in Port-au-Prince for its first working session since it was established in January.

Speaking from the grounds of the partially damaged Karibe Convention Center, Clinton, who was recently in Leogane to visit hurricane-prone areas and in Port-au-Prince to attend a conference of business investors, was “delighted” to be back and “see so much reconstruction going forward.”

He then introduced businessmen and philanthropists Frank Giustra of Canada and Carlos Slim of Mexico and announced a $ 20 million investment fund intended to provide capital for small and medium size businesses, by far the largest sector in the Haitian economy, employing some 80 percent of the nation’s workforce and accounting for 70 percent of its gross domestic product.

“We have to build the kind of business capital this country so desperately needs, to make your nation truly self-sustaining,” Clinton said, adding that this kind of work cannot be done through donors and NGOs alone. “We have to unleash the ideas, energy and creativity of your entrepreneurs.”

Profits from the fund will be reinvested into the fund and used for further loans.

“This fund belongs to the small and medium businesses,” Clinton said, adding there will be no profit for the investors. “It will be recycled over and over again, I hope forever.”

Clinton added the fund is especially needed because so many business owners lost the structures and inventories necessary to apply for loans with local banks. He said he hopes the fund will serve as a model for further investments.

Applications for grants will be open to businesses beyond the earthquake affected areas, as hundreds of thousands Haitians have moved outside Port-au-Prince since January.

Reconstruction has been very slow in Port-au-Prince and many question how the millions in donations raised so far have been put to use.

Clinton, who has been insisting on the need to establish mechanisms for accountability since the donor’s conference held last March in New York, said up until today it was the responsibility of those who received funds to publicly report on their use. Starting today, all NGOs will be asked to report how much funding they received and how they spent it directly to the commission, which will then make it public.

“The Prime Minister and I make a commitment to the people of Haiti and the people of the world to make this process transparent and accountable,” Clinton said.

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