Former US president Bill Clinton has earmarked tourism as a key investment opportunity in rebuilding Haiti, saying it should be seen as a business opportunity and not aid.
Clinton has launched an appeal for Haiti to business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. He said the catastrophe could turn out to be an opportunity for the nation to emerge from generations of grinding poverty.
He tried to give a sense of the scale of the tragedy, and appealed for private investment to help the devastated nation rebuild.
Clinton, who has had a long interest in Haiti, travelled to Port-au-Prince shortly after the earthquake.
He has also been enlisted by Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary general to support a cash-for-work programme to revive Haiti’s shattered economy.
Clinton said the immediate needs for the country included truck to deliver aid.
He also highlighted tourism potential of Haiti as a way for the country to grow out of poverty.
About 800,000 tourists visited Haiti last year, bringing vital hard-currency 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.
Politicians and philanthropists have often used Davos as an opportunity to appeal to the world’s richest people to contribute to help the world’s poor.
As many as 200,000 people have been killed by the earthquake which struck two weeks ago, and an estimated 1.5 million people have also been left homeless.
The Haitian government needs billions of dollars in assistance to begin the task of rehabilitating the country.
In March, a major UN conference is scheduled to persuade the international community to contribute to what was already the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.