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Bank Gives $40M Boost To U.S.-Haiti Industrial Park

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 2:56pm

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The Inter-American Development Bank plans to award $40.5 million to help an industrial park in northern Haiti with its expansion, the international agency said Thursday.

The grant for the Caracol Industrial Park is to finance the construction of canteens, administrative buildings, roads, bicycle lanes, bus stops and other facilities.

The industrial park is anchored by a South Korean textile firm and is the U.S. government's biggest investment in Haiti since a 2010 earthquake destroyed thousands of homes and displaced 1.5 million people. The U.S. has invested more than $124 million in the project, which has been championed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But the industrial park appears to have gotten off to a slow start since it opened in 2011.

Backers say the facility will create 20,000 to 65,000 much-needed jobs upon completion in northern Haiti, one of the more impoverished areas in the country of 10 million. But an October report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office raised a range of questions about the efficacy and the future of the $300 million industrialpark.

For one, the report said that only 1,450 Haitians have been hired so far. The same study also said that 15,000 houses were to have been built for workers but there are now plans to build only 2,649 homes.

A U.S. official in Haiti defended the project in an interview with The Associated Press last month, saying it was an unrealistic expectation to believe that tenants would move in right away.

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