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Bill Clinton Unveils $20 Mln Haiti Fund

Friday, 18 Jun 2010 05:33 AM

PORT-AU-PRINCE — The commission set up to oversee the five billion dollars in quake aid money pledged to Haiti by the international community has held its first working session.

Co-chaired by former US president Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, the meeting came as disquiet grew over the little progress made in the more than five months since the disaster.

Up to 300,000 are estimated to have died in the January 12 quake, the biggest natural disaster of modern times, but despite massive pledges of aid from the international community, reconstruction has been painstakingly slow.

Clinton announced Thursday a new 20-million-dollar fund to help the small and medium-size businesses that he believes will be crucial to the Caribbean nation's long-term recovery.

"We have to build the kind of business capital this country so desperately needs, to make your nation truly self-sustaining," Clinton said. "We have to unleash the ideas, energy and creativity of your entrepreneurs."

Profits from the fund, which was paid for by 10-million-dollar contributions from Canadian businessman Frank Giustra and the world's richest man, Mexican telecoms magnate Carlos Slim, will be reinvested and used for further loans.

"This fund belongs to the small and medium businesses," Clinton said, stressing that there would be no profit for the billionaire investors. "It will be recycled over and over again, I hope forever."

But many in Port-au-Prince feel the pace of the reconstruction has been slow at best and weekly protests betray increasing frustration at the perceived inefficiency of the government.

Demonstrators gathered Thursday outside the conference center where Clinton, Slim and Guis addressed reporters, hanging damning banners before being dispersed by police firing tear gas.

At the largely procedural meeting, Bellerive defended the recovery effort and tapped into popular fears that the pledged funds might never arrive.

"We are not going to make plans when we don't know how much money we will actually have," he said. "We did that in the past and saw the results."

Land ownership difficulties and sky-high unemployment have stalled efforts to try to help 1.3 million people displaced by the disaster, many of whom are still living in squalid tent cities at risk from hurricanes and floods.

Thursday's meeting was closed to the public, but Clinton declared his intention to hold open sessions in the future.

"The prime minister and I made a commitment to the people of Haiti and the people of the world to make this process transparent and accountable," Clinton said.

The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Committee will next meet on July 22.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 
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PORT-AU-PRINCE — The commission set up to oversee the five billion dollars in quake aid money pledged to Haiti by the international community has held its first working session.
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2010-33-18
Friday, 18 Jun 2010 05:33 AM
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