Remarks at the Caracol Industrial Park Opening Ceremony
Secretary of State
We are also fortunate to have with us today former President Preval. It was President Preval who had the will to take this project from dream to reality. (Applause.) And it has been an honor working with you, sir, as well.
And of course, I want to thank the third president who is here. (Laughter.) As Bill told you, we came here for the first time together just after we were married and fell in love with Haiti, and have just celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary, which is exhausting to think about. (Laughter and applause.) It’s been an amazing experience from start to now – (applause) – and we have had a deep connection to and with Haiti ever since. So it gives me a special pleasure to be here with my husband, who has worked so hard on behalf of Haiti and its development, because he believes so much in the people of Haiti and the potential that exists within each and every man, woman, boy, and girl. (Applause.)
Let me thank our friend Luis Moreno, the president of the Inter-American Development Bank, and your terrific team for helping to shepherd this project, like so many others, to reality. Let me thank UTE Director General Michael De Landsheer and SONAPI Director General George Sassine and all the other partners and supporters in the Government of Haiti, in the private sector of Haiti, and in the community. Mayor, thank you for welcoming us all here today. (Applause.)
Now this has been a real whole-of-government effort on behalf of the Obama Administration. I’m particularly pleased to be joined by Senator Patrick Leahy, who I had the privilege of serving with in the United States Senate, the Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who I served with in the Congress. Representing USAID is the Deputy Director Don Steinberg and my Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, who has been, as others have already said, a real driver of our government’s support for everything that we see here today.
We have been united behind a single goal – making investments in this country’s people and your infrastructure that help put Haiti finally on the path to broad-based economic growth with a more vibrant private sector and less dependence on foreign assistance. And we believe that our work here in Haiti and here in the north is beginning to show results.
It is remarkable, as Luis said, that in January this was a construction site without a single structure. Now when we look at it, what we see is part of a broader effort by the Government of Haiti with support from international partners and the private sector. And what is happening here in Caracol is already having ripple effects that will create jobs and opportunities far beyond this industrial park.
As we walked through the factory and saw some of the more than 1,000 Haitians working here, many of whom are women who have never held a job in the formal economy before, I could think, as I do all over the world, what that will mean to their families and their children. Children will go to school, will be healthier, will have more of their own dreams fulfilled because their mothers had good jobs. So this is, indeed, a great day, not only for those who are already working, but for those who they are supporting.
And I too want to thank Sae-A, because Sae-A took a decision that was something of a risk, never having worked in Haiti before, after a tremendous natural disaster that was so devastating. But they brought their expertise and they brought their commitment. And Chairman Kim, we thank you for everything that you and the leadership of Sae-A is doing. (Applause.) Thank you, (inaudible).
But let me hasten to add that while jobs are critically important, that is just the beginning. In addition to effective government, Haiti needs a strong justice sector, free and fair elections, housing, energy, schools, health care – all of which will serve the people of Haiti, but also attract even more investment.
So we are working with the Government of Haiti and a wide range of public and private partners not only to build affordable homes with clean running water, flush toilets, and reliable electricity, but also built to resist hurricanes and earthquakes. And we’re partnering with CEMEX and others to make low-cost loans and supplies to help families renovate and expand their homes.
Homes that have never had electricity before are now powered by a 10 million-megawatt thermal plant. Eventually, as many as 100,000 people will benefit, and the power plant will grow to provide 25 million megawatts of energy. Now, in a country where today 12 percent of the people have regular and legal access to the grid, that is a truly game-changing accomplishment.
Plans for a new container port are also moving forward, with a team of engineers, marine biologists, and economists working together.
Now, in the United States, we pride ourselves on the promise of the American dream. And we have seen many Haitian Americans achieve that American dream. When I was a senator from New York, I had so many successful Haitian Americans whom I represented in every walk of life, every business, and every profession. And what I saw in my Haitian American friends and constituents was a drive, a drive to have a better tomorrow.
Now, Haitians here in Haiti have the very same drive. And what we want to do is create the Haitian dream for every person willing to work for it, to give them and their children a better future. (Applause.)
So this is a good day, a day that took a while to get to, a day that was filled with so many challenges, but persistence in overcoming them, a day that has already seen the first 67,000 garments shipped under preferences given by the United States to products coming from Haiti. And I think it’s fair to say that we want to make this a model not just for Haiti, but for the world about what can be done when people do work together, when they put aside their political differences and join hands on behalf of the better future that we all seek.
Now, no one should have any illusion that this is a perfect project. What development project anywhere in the world is? And there will be frustration from time to time. But for all of the inevitable challenges, today and the development here represents a new opportunity for Haiti. And I am grateful that the people and the Government of Haiti are prepared to see this.
We have made a decision in this Administration to make Haiti a foreign policy priority. When I became Secretary of State, I looked at the billions of dollars of foreign assistance that the United States spends around the world. And I asked myself why the results didn’t always create meaningful and sustainable change in the lives of the people. So we redirected our efforts to work with Haiti, not just in Haiti, to listen to the Haitians, to work with the Haitian Government – first under President Preval, now under President Martelly – to make sure that our priorities were Haiti’s priorities, and to give the Haitian people their voice, so that as we made decisions in Washington, we were doing it together.
Now it is up to the people and leaders of Haiti to sustain and build on this progress. After all, it always comes down to what people will do for themselves. But I think we’re off to a very good start together, and the United States is committed to the work we are doing here. We believe in Haiti’s promise and the dream that every Haitian should be able to feel.
And our partnership, I promise you, will extend far beyond my time as Secretary of State. And so, too, will the personal commitment that my husband and I have to Haiti. I look forward to us being good partners to the Haitian people for years to come and seeing the progress that you will make, along with your friends from around the world who believe in you.
It is now my great pleasure to introduce someone who is the chief believer and dreamer, President Martelly. (Applause.)