We’re going to make it – Haitians

2010-01-26 12:04

SOMETHING like an economy is rising back up amid the rubble from

the earthquake that recently devastated Port-au-Prince and other parts of

Haiti.

Bank offices opened this weekend for the first time since the

January 12 quake in which some 150,000 people are confirmed killed. Officials

fear that number could rise to around 200,000.

Food stores also resumed operations, while fruit and vegetables,

household goods and clothes are once again on offer on the streets and in

markets.

The textiles factory owned by Haitian industrialist Charles Baker

is also set to get back to work in the coming days. Baker, 55, who was a

presidential candidate four years ago, wants to get back to making

clothes.

“One hundred per cent, as before the earthquake,” the entrepreneur

stresses.

Baker has been incredibly lucky. His factory buildings are still

standing. Only the plaster fell off from the outer walls in some places.

The buildings house long tables holding hundreds of sewing

machines, which work with blue, orange and white fabric. Everything appears as

it was before the disaster, at a time when only a few workers were in the

factory. A few rolls of fabric fell to the ground. The place is largely

unchanged.

Only the office space, located at the front, in the first hall,

suffered some damage. So Baker moved his office outside, beneath a large tree by

the entrance.

The business used to have 750 employees, and it is set to reopen

with 600 to start. Many left the city after the quake, others were injured.

Others lost relatives in the 7.0 quake.

The Haitian textiles industry used to employ around 25 000 people.

Other firms have not been as lucky as Charles Baker’s, and many suffered serious

damage or lost employees.

Be that as it may, starting again in the chaos that now swamps

Port-au-Prince is difficult.

“We can start anew. We’re going to make it,” Baker says.

He says that particularly to encourage his son, who recently took

over the management of the business. But he is referring to all Haitians.

In fact, Baker has also decided to stand again for the Haitian

Presidency and hopes to succeed current President Rene Preval in 2011.

However, conditions hardly encourage a resurgence of the economy.

There is little money. Banks are broke. They have lost many employees, bank

headquarters are now piles of rubble. And it is at best uncertain whether they

will get back the money they loaned out to build buildings that have now been

destroyed.

“There is no longer anything here,” Baker says. “We definitely need

help from abroad, from everyone, to rebuild what we have lost.”

The entrepreneur particularly calls for private investment in rural

areas and in agriculture. Haiti must begin to feed itself, he says. And it must

reduce its dependency on imports and on donations.

“We must get people to leave the destroyed capital and go to the

provinces,” Baker says.

Port-au-Prince, he notes, has to be torn down completely and built

again, a process that could take up to 25 years.

The owner of the leading Haitian radio station Radio Metropole,

Richard Widmaier, also believes that Haiti cannot get back on its feet without

outside help.

The radio station’s headquarters stand intact amid a waste of

rubble. But the studio, which has almost worked non-stop despite the quake, now

stands in the garden.

“We Haitians can work hard,” says Widmaier. “But we need a new

leadership. The best thing would be a protectorate.

“No one knows how the whole thing is supposed to work,” he

acknowledges. “All we have is the firm will get things under control.”


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