Haiti ready to re-create itself, ambassador says

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By Giri Nathan ’13

It took an earthquake for the world to realize Haiti’s plight, but the nation is ready to re-create itself, said Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, in a speech on campus April 6.

“This earthquake has shaken up everything, and everyone,” Joseph told a full audience at Dodds Auditorium. “You’ll never be able to put Humpty Dumpty together the same way.”

Joseph recounted much of Haiti’s troubled history, but stressed the current opportunity to rebuild anew with international attention. “I see a silver lining in it already, because for the first time, people are just focusing on Haiti,” he said.

Decentralization will be crucial to the rise of a “new Haiti,” according to Joseph. In the past, everything was concentrated in Port-au-Prince, he said, including the airport, the seaport, the University of Haiti, and cultural resources.

Despite affecting just one fifth of the landmass of Haiti, the earthquake’s damages amounted to 80 percent, Joseph added. Citing other recent earthquakes in Chile and the U.S. of greater magnitude but lesser consequences, he called for improved infrastructure.

“Port-au-Prince will probably be rebuilt, but according to codes,” he said.

Joseph identified outside investment as another key factor, and noted that the current laws needs to be changed to allow for private investors. He encouraged the nation to draw “even from our own Haitian diaspora,” observing that 83 percent of Haitian professionals live abroad.

“We expect tourism to flourish,” Joseph said. He alluded to Haiti’s former prominence among American tourists — at one time, second only to Cuba, he said.

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