Any talk of a new Haiti must start with job creation and end with jobs that pay a decent wage. Before the quake Haiti’s unemployment rate was one of the highest in the region, and the few who held a job were barely making enough to get to work. We have a serious problem in our hands, and it is impossible to talk of sustainable independence for Haitians, if we can’t find a way to get them employed.
There is no doubt that job creation is one of the major challenges facing any society. It is one thing to open a new store and hire a couple of people, but it is a completely different undertaking to create new opportunities for a huge number of people. Often, the debate about job creation is centered on who should create those opportunities, and what are the benefits for the creator.
Basic economics taught us that even with job creation the idea of supply and demand is still king. The employers won’t add new jobs to the economy if there is no real benefit for doing so, and they definitely will not do it if the jobs can be done with the workers that they currently have. So how can Haiti creates an environment that is friendly enough for new jobs?
Every nation has its own specific area of needs when it comes to job creation. The current landscape of Haiti would dictate that the best areas for jobs creation are agriculture or agro-industrial products, education, infrastructure, manufacturing and tourism. If we were able to bring some new capitals and serious investors to those areas, it would be possible that we could easily add 2 million new jobs in the Haitian economy within a matter of a year.
First and foremost an entrepreneurial atmosphere must be created to make all that possible. This is where the Haitian government could play the most crucial role. It is a known fact that in any free society the private sector is the one that can provide the most amounts of jobs, and often the best paid jobs, but it is the government responsibility to make sure that the rules are followed to ensure fairness to all participants in the economy.
The Haitian government must make the procedure to open new businesses easier, simpler and provide enough incentives to encourage the investors to bring their businesses to our shore. In the area of manufacturing, many foreign companies have already gotten a sweet deal through their Haitian contractors on the ground, but we cannot have an economy based solely on garment manufacturing.
So what are the tangible issues that must be addressed to create a new economy based on jobs that pay for the Haitian society? When we talk of job creation, we must instantly see the wage or expenses of the job creators and the return on their investment. In order to make it work, the return on the investment must be comparable, if not better to returns that the investors might get in other markets.
Haiti’s geographic position makes it an ideal location for doing business. We are able to provide a labor force that is basically untapped and cheap compared to other markets in the region. The labor cost of doing business in Haiti is a good incentive for foreign investors, but we can’t allow that cheap labor to become an exploitative system. One of the reasons that labor cost is so cheap today is because of the high rate of illiteracy and the high demand for employment. As we create more jobs, we must prepare ourselves for an economy where labor cost won’t always be cheap; therefore it is imperative that we invest in areas that will be able to sustain a highly educated population.
As Haiti tries to rise from the debris of the earthquake, it must set itself up for opportunities that it has never seen before. Instead of asking people to go back to the rural areas to cultivate the land with medieval tools, we must invest in providing them modern equipments to make land cultivation easier and more productive. The state must establish new norms to subsidize farming in order to make it appealing to many.
If we have been talking the good talk about investing in education, the struggle to even provide the basics for ourselves after the tragedy of January 12th should be proof that we must act now in making education a priority. Again, the Haitian government in partnership with the private sector can make education for all a reality; hence enhancing the nation employment pool by hiring more trained teachers at all level of educational system.
Infrastructure right now is one of the main sectors that can use a lot of help. The demand to rebuild the houses not just in Port-Au-Prince but throughout the whole country makes it an area that can easily absorb a million new jobs. We will not rebuild in the same conditions that we did in the past, but this time we should invest capitals in houses that will be able to sustain most natural disaster. This is an area that can benefit from new investors with deep pocket. New construction will be costly, so it might be time to consider a mortgage system in Haiti or have a serious agrarian reform. Again, the government should play an essential role to safeguard the interest of the people.
Building sound infrastructure is more than just erecting new homes; we must invest in modern roads, ports, and institutions that will be capable to maintain the proper use of the entire infrastructure.
Tourism remains a major potential resource to the country’s economy. For Haiti to be able to compete with other countries in the region, it must have the physical infrastructure in place and also have the functioning institutions that will provide the peace of mind to the foreign visitors.
We have a lot of work to get done. Any plan that does not include a massive emphasis on employment is just not going to be able to deliver on the promises of this great opportunity that we face today. Millions have been raised on behalf of the good people of Haiti, only if we were able to invest all that money in the Haitian economy, people could have seen a difference in their living conditions.
Haiti is at a point where it needs to concentrate on a few agricultural products and produce them in enough quantity for domestic consumption and hopefully have a surplus that can be used in international trade. We need to redesign the Haitian economy. It’s time to move from little merchants invading all the streets of the major cities to having industries that can be regulated by the state. We need to move from single employer to mini-corporations. That way the state will be able to raise enough revenue to invest in the needs of the people.
With a sound economy, it will be possible for the state to assure healthcare, education, justice, clean air, and constant electricity to all. The first step in making this whole thing work is not solely dependent on the state, but also of the private sector to start investing in areas that can guarantee the continual existence of the Haitian people. In this new Haiti living to survive must be a thing of the past, we must start living for a better tomorrow, and it will all be possible when the people have jobs that pay.