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Haiti’s New Industrial Park Hailed by Officials, Condemned by Local Activists

As government officials, diplomats, and
representatives of international finance institutions
celebrated at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new
industrial park in the north of the country, Haitian
grassroots media organizations have published a
report that casts serious doubt on the wisdom of the

The Caracol Industrial Park, about 24 km from
the major northern city of Cap-Haïtien, is a joint
project of the Haitian and US governments, the
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and Sae-
A Trading Co. Ltd.*South Korea*s leading garment
manufacturer and a major supplier to U.S. retailers
such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Target Corp, and
Gap Inc. The Haitian government contributed the
land for the industrial park, and Sae-A is investing
US$78 million in the initial phase of the project.

The US government is providing US$120 million
for generating electricity, housing for the park*s
managers, and improving the port in Cap-Haïtien.
The IDB will provide US$50 million for building
factory shells and infrastructure to serve the park.
Sae-A intends to start production in March
and plans to employ around 20,000 Haitians in its
garment-assembly plant. It is hoped that other
foreign companies will set up business in the park
once it becomes operational. International planners
hope that the park will alleviate Haiti*s chronic
unemployment problem and create a center of
economic development outside the capital, Port-au-

Former US President Bill Clinton, the
UN’s Special Envoy to Haiti, attending the
groundbreaking ceremony with other potential
investors, said, « The Caracol Industrial Park shows
the positive impact foreign investment can have
in building Haiti back better. It will bring tens of
thousands of jobs to Haitians, and I am proud to
be here for the groundbreaking of this important
project. »

Also attending the ceremony was IDB president
Luis Alberto Moreno, who said, « Caracol can have
a phenomenal multiplying effect in this region.
Besides the thousands of factory jobs that will be
created by large manufacturers, we will see many
local entrepreneurs starting up small businesses,
expanding the industrial park*s economic impact
beyond its gates. »

Haitian President Michel Martelly joined the
chorus of approval, saying, « Today, here is the
model of investment Haitians need from the friends
of Haiti. This model of investment will allow
Haitians to feel proud. »

Civil-society questions whether industrial park
w i ll benefit Haitians
Leaders of the country*s vigorous civil-society
organizations take a completely different view
of the new industrial park, however, and have
expressed their dismay. These organizations claim
that garment assembly does little to help Haiti’s
economic development because it is just that*
assembly*with parts of clothes sent from abroad,
sewn together in Haitian factories, and then reexported.

The economist and activist Camille Chalmers,
who heads the Platfom Ayisyen Pledwaye Pou Yon
Developman Altenatif (PAPDA, Haitian Alternative
Development Advocacy Platform), says, « Assembly
factories don*t resolve the unemployment problem.
They don*t resolve the production problem. They
work with imported materials. They*re enclaves.
They don*t have much effect on the economy. »

PAPDA and other progressive organizations
have repeatedly warned of the harm caused by a
focus on assembly operations. Their concerns have
been reinforced by a report on the Caracol Industrial
Park project published by Ayiti Kale Je (Haiti
Grassroots Watch), a collaboration between two
well-known Haitian grassroots media organizations.

Aiyiti Kale Je investigators spent months
conducting more than three dozen interviews,
visiting factory zones and workers in the north and
in the capital, and reviewing dozens of academic
papers and reports, including one leaked from
Haiti*s Ministry of the Environment.

The report found that, typically, garment
assembly workers use more than half the average
daily wage for lunch and transportation to and
from work, confirming doubts voiced about the
ability of low-paid assembly-plant jobs to create
knock-on effects on the wider Haitian economy.
Given Haiti’s ever-increasing dependence on
imported food and fuel, this means that assembly
workers’ spending power has a minimal effect on
the country’s economic development.

Environmental impact feared
The new industrial park is also likely to have
a serious detrimental impact on the country*s
important agricultural sector and on the local
environment as a whole. The Ayiti Kale Je
investigators discovered that the park is being
built in the middle of a fertile area for agricultural
production and one of the country’s major

Pierre Renel, a farmer whose land has been
swallowed up by the new industrial park, has joined
with other displaced farmers to form the Association
pour la défense des travailleurs Caracol (Caracol
Workers Defense Association). He told Ayiti Kale
Je, « The spot they picked for the industrial park is
the most fertile part of the department. We grow
a lot of plantains, beans, corn, and manioc. That*s
how families raise their children, educate their
children*.It*s like our *treasury!* »

The site is only about 2 miles from a large
bay, which is home to mangrove forests and the
country*s longest uninterrupted coral reef. Caracol
Bay has been the subject of international study for
some years and is part of several plans to make
the region into an environmentally sensitive park.
The Trou du Nord river, which feeds into the bay,
runs right past the industrial park. According to
a study commissioned by Haiti*s Ministry of the
Environment, the reason the site was chosen was
precisely because the river « is capable of absorbing
a large volume of treated water » from the industrial

The Caracol Industrial Park is expected to attract
as many as 200,000 new inhabitants to the region
who will come in the hope of finding work in or
around the project. As the Ayiti Kale Je report
concludes, the sudden arrival of so many people will
have numerous negative impacts*the generation
of human waste and pollution, uncontrolled use
of water and trees (for cooking needs), and the
construction of squatter settlements on farmland or
environmentally fragile areas.