PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Five years ago, Laurent Lamothe was awarded the prestigious title of Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young for founding the Global Voice Group, a company which focuses on facilitating the jobs of international telecommunications regulators. Today, at just 40 years old, he is Haiti’s 16th prime minister. In an interview conducted earlier this year with Dutch magazine Metro, Lamothe shares his plans and hopes for the country’s future infrastructure and economy.
In light of the recent hurricanes and flood that have hit the country, Lamothe says that the government is going to invest $344 million into making the country’s infrastructure more resilient to natural disasters.
He also discussed Haiti’s aid status, making it clear that he wants the country to become more self-sufficient. He says, “Our objective is to have NGOs work together with Haitian institutions so that Haiti gets stronger institution. Then, when the next natural disaster happens, Haiti’s institutions should be able to deal with emergencies instead of relying on NGOs.”
According to Lamothe, recent tragedies and civil unrest have resulted in Haitians not being able to realize their biggest asset: the sun. Wonderful beaches and the untapped natural beauty of islands such as Île à Vache, have been ignored due to a recent void of tourism. That is about to change however, as the government has recently invested $400 million into the tourism industry, creating a Tourism Police force and an international airport, as well as building high-end resorts that will provide 4,000 jobs to Haitians.
Currently the unemployment rate in Haiti is 75%. This figure has remained high since before the wave of natural disasters that have battered the country in the last three years, and has led to a massive exodus of the nation’s best and brightest minds. Lamothe attests to this, admitting himself that “85% of our brains leave the country, and the reason is lack of jobs.” Lamothe can count himself among that number, having left the country to complete his undergraduate and graduate studies at Barry University and St. Thomas University respectively, both of which are located in Miami, Florida.
In order to solve many of the country’s problems, Lamothe is also looking for direct investment from private companies. Citing the country’s favorable trade agreement with the United States (goods manufactured in Haiti do not pay customs duties in the U.S.), as well as its industrial capacity (Lamothe is working towards universal electrification of the country and is looking to build many more roads and tolls), he said, “Countries should think of Haiti not as a place where to do charity but a place where to invest and do business. And doing business in Haiti means poverty reduction.”
– Samantha Mauney
Source: Metro, Global Voice Group, Columbia World Leaders Forum, CN Weekly News
Photo: Unleashing Ideas