Clinton in Haiti appeal to Davos
Former US president says earthquake provides investment opportunity to help country.
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2010 16:39 GMT
Clinton said the immediate needs for the country included trucks and distribution centres [AFP]

Bill Clinton, the former US president, has urged global corporate bosses to help rebuild earthquake-hit Haiti, saying it should be seen as a business opportunity and not aid.

Addressing the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Clinton said the catastrophe could turn out to be an opportunity for the devastated nation to emerge from generations of grinding poverty.

"They need to be helped through this hideous natural disaster," he said, while arguing that the catastrophe could highlight opportunities in a country historically "punished by either being ignored or abused".

"They've got the best chance they've ever had in my lifetime ... to escape that past and we have the best chance we've ever had to be a part of that."

Tourism potential

Clinton, who has often taken an interest in Haiti in the past, travelled, to Port-au-Prince, the country's capital, after the January 12 earthquake that is believed to have killed nearly 170,000 people.

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Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary general, has enlisted the former president's help to support a cash-for-work programme to revive Haiti's shattered economy.

Clinton said the immediate needs for the country included trucks and distribution centres, to deliver aid which is available but difficult to get to those in need.

He also trumpeted the agriculture and tourism potential of Haiti as a way for the country to move forward.

About 800,000 tourists visited Haiti last year, bringing vital funds into the country's economy.

"I believe that a country can rise from the ashes in a very short period of time," he said, citing the case of Indonesia's Aceh  province after the 2004 Asian tsunami, and Rwanda after the 1994 genocide.

African focus

Proceedings in Davos on Thursday also focused on the African continent.

Jacob Zuma, South Africa's president, told delegates at the forum that despite the global recession, sound economic policies, an improved regulatory system and continuing social and political stability would bring increasing growth to his country.

Zuma said: "We have not been spared the job losses, but we have put plans in place, working together as business, labour and government to ensure that the recovery becomes faster and inclusive.

"The country's transport, energy, telecommunications and social infrastructure are being upgraded and expanded.

"This is contributing to economic development in the midst of a global recession, while improving conditions for investment."

Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's prime minister, told delegates that the continent had barely felt the global recession.

However, speaking to Al Jazeera, Trevor Manuel, South Africa's planning minister, said: "It hasn't been entirely painless ... we have very high unemployment. I am pretty confident growth in 2010 will be positive.

"We are fortunate that the organisation of the World Cup came at the right time.

"The construction was underway, not just of the stadiums, but also of surrounding infrastructure, just when the country was going in to recession.

"It helped carry us through. But from here it's ensuring that sufficient people come to South Africa, experience the joy of the football, and also the tourism opportunities." 

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