What does it mean when a telecom billionaire and a mining executive contribute $20M for a business loan program in Haiti? It means that these guys just bought themselves total access to the telecom and mining industries in Haiti.
BY TRENTON DANIEL AND JACQUELINE CHARLES
PETIONVILLE — Former President Bill Clinton, flanked by one of the richest men in the world and a Canadian mining magnet, announced Thursday a $20 million fund to help support the expansion and creation of small- and medium-size Haitian businesses.
Before the Jan. 12 earthquake, such businesses made up more than 80 percent of Haiti’s economy. They also accounted for more than 70 percent of the Gross Domestic Product lost after the quake.
Following the quake, many Haitians have been unable to get conventional bank loans.
Mexican telecom executive Carlos Slim, considered the richest man in the world, and Canadian Frank Guistra said they planned to each donate $10 million of their own money to help build a fund that would invest in small- and medium-size businesses.
Slim alone is worth 30 times Haiti’s $2 billion annual budget.
“We have to unleash the ideas, the energy, the creativity of your enterprises. This is a good first step,” Clinton said. “The focus of this fund is to help create jobs not only by helping small- and medium-size business to recover but to do better than they were doing before the earthquake.”
The announcement came moments before the first official meeting of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission. The commission has 26 members, an equal number of Haitians and international members.
Under the rules of the fund, Haitians would be able to apply for money if the commission approves their projects. Any project up to $1 million can automatically be approved by a still-yet-to-be-named executive director. Projects between $1 million and $10 million will have to be approved by the co-chairs, Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. Anything more than $10 million would need full commission approval.
Clinton announced a similar investment fund with both Slim and Guistra in Colombia.
Slim said he was supporting this effort because he believed “the businessmen of Haiti need to have the economic support, not just the big businesses but the small- and medium-size businesses.”
The commission is meeting at the Karibe Convention Center, where less than a year ago Clinton addressed more than 600 Haitian and foreign investors who visited Haiti in search of opportunities.