Controversy over Haiti’s development
Controversy over Haiti’s developmentA new industrial park in Haiti will create jobs, but is it leading the country in a “race to the bottom”?
As Haiti continues to rebuild from the 2010 earthquake, investors are pouring money into the country. The latest initiative is an international project worth $225 million. A planned industrial park is expected to create 20,000 jobs with workers receiving a salary of $5 per day - Haiti’s minimum wage.
Now a South Korean garment manufacturer has made plans to be the first tenant in the new industrial park located in Haiti’s rural north. The Caracol Industrial Park project has received much support from former President Bill Clinton and the Inter-American Development Bank, who believe it will create much-needed jobs for Haitians.
The industrial park will represent a joint investment of about $225 million. The U.S. government has already put down $125 million, while Sae-A, the South Korean garment manufacturer, has contributed more than $70 million. The factory will make garments for companies like Wal-Mart, Target, and Gap Inc., among others.
The factory will create an estimated 20,000 new jobs when it is completed. It will provide housing for 5,000 workers and set up a new school for 500 children.
However, an investigation by Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) found that the Sae-A business venture actually does more to help the Haitian government and foreign corporations than the people of Haiti.
Haiti’s minimum wage for non-factory workers is $5.00 per day, and according to HGW, minimum wage for factory workers can be as low as $3.75 per day. Those rates have led labour groups to compare the new jobs to sweatshop work. And while labour unions are legal in the country, employers routinely award bonuses to workers who do not unionise.
Additionally, opponents say, waste from the factory would pollute a nearby river that could have been a source of clean water for Haitians. Sanitation has been a major source of health problems, including a cholera outbreak that has killed 6,600 since last year’s earthquake.
Haitian President Michel Martelly says he will create 500,000 new jobs over the next three years by encouraging investment from foreign businesses. But progress on that pledge may be slow, due to bureaucracy, weak infrastructure and political instability in the country.
What do you think of Haiti's minimum wage? Send us your thoughts and comments on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #AJStream.
These are some highlights of the conversation around the web: