By Vania Andre
In one day, thousands of Haitian registered voters will go to the polls to elect a new president, parliament and hundreds of local representatives. At stake is the direction of a country that has been adrift, as it faces on hurdle after another.
Although billions of dollars of foreign aide was believed to be pumped into the country during the last five years, this money has not spurred the kind of economic development that Haiti needs to move forward, according to a September report from the World Bank Group (WBG).
“We have to look at Haiti in terms of the next 25 years,” presidential candidate Jean Clarens Renois said, during an election debate hosted by Haiti Renewal Alliance (HRA) on Sept. 15. The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit promotes business development and economic growth in Haiti.
“We have opportunities to sell to other countries,” Renois said. “We have to become producers. We must train our youth so they can master new industries” and have an opportunity for jobs.
Haiti is a country in need of almost everything from good schools, to quality health care, housing and passable roads. Creating jobs will go a long way to alleviate some of these problems. Because of the lack of job opportunities, recently Haitian youth are leaving the country seeking opportunity in the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and the Bahamas among other countries.
Renois is one of 54 candidates vying for the presidency; including, front-runner Jude Celestin, President Michel Martelly Tet Kale pick Jovenel Moise, and businessman Charles Henri Baker, who ran in the 2006 and 2010 presidential elections. Celestin was former President Rene Preval’s pick to succeed him in the 2011 presidential election.
Economic experts recommend supporting job creation as a means of quickening the country’s slow economic growth, WBG’s report cites. Supporting job creation means “not only increasing the number of formal jobs, but also improving incomes.”
In the report, a special emphasis is put on creating jobs in the agricultural sector and providing opportunities outside of Port-au-Prince.
Renois believes there’s hope for the youth. The focus is about providing access to school and enrolling in professional programs, he said.
However, presidential candidates Mathias Pierre and Charles Henri Baker don’t think that’s enough.
“Until the government can give political stability, people won’t invest in Haiti,” Baker said, and that won’t happen until we start putting an “emphasis on government acting as a public service.”
This emphasis on school is one of the problems, Pierre said, because “after graduation they can’t find jobs.
“Entrepreneurship is one of the best tools to fight poverty,” he said. “If we invest in 300, 000 people, who each create two jobs, we’d have a million new jobs.”