Haiti: Port Infrastructure, Reform Pits Martelly-Lamothe against Predecessors
- Wednesday, July 18, 2012 10:15 AM
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (defend.ht) - On Tuesday, Alix Celestin, newly appointed Director of the National Port Authority announced groundbreaking renovations to be made to the port of Port-au-Prince in October. Along with new policies by the Martelly-Lamothe administration, the changes to be implemented in Haiti's ports pits the sophomore administration against the policies of their predecessors, former Presidents Rene Preval and Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Director Alix Celestin, National Port Authority Director, along with the announcement on Port-au-Prince added that more infrastructure building was scheduled for the provincial ports of Miragoane and GonaÃ¯ves.
The port of Port-au-Prince had not been maintained in the past quarter-century and sustained even more damage after the January 12, 2010 earthquake. A representative of the Inter-American Bank said even with its poor infrastructure, the port of Port-au-Prince had become one of the most expensive in the world, shying away investment and adversely affecting local businesses in the county.
4 Point Investment Initiative
The development of the port is one part of the Haitian government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe's efforts to encourage investment into the country. The administration identified four areas where infrastructure building and policies were needed in order to bring investment and opportunity into the country for the Haitian worker.
The areas described were:
- in the maritime sector, port infrastructure
- for air traffic, airport building and renovations
- in energy, particularly electricity, more production
- and to control prices, regulatory reform for open competition
Examining these changes, they are a clear contrast from the previous administrations, post-Duvalier.
Blast from the Past
Operateurs Portuaires Reunies S.A. (OPR) is a private company that benefited from a public-private partnership with the government of former President Rene Preval. Two firms, the Philippe Coles Group support by former President Aristide and the Edouard Baussan Group supported by his former Prime Minister and President Rene Preval merged to form the OPR in 2009 (Le Moniteur).
In all intents and purposes, the OPR grew to become the de facto National Port Authority under Preval government. With this public-private partnership the OPR earned two exclusive contracts with the port authority that allowed them to monopolize the industry.
One such contract permitted only OPR to have rights to receive and handle, 20', 40', refrigerated, non-refrigerated, steel cargo containers. The second contract came in 2008, gave OPR the exclusive right to operate cranes (APN).
It should not need mentioning that OPR became one of the major contributors to the former administration's election campaigns; presidential runner-up Jude Celestin and down-ballot campaigns of the Inite party.
In the years of these agreements, the port of Port-au-Prince had become run-down and inefficient. OPR shareholders did make investments in infrastructure and compounded with corruption, the the port became one of the most expensive in the world.
The Martelly-Lamothe government identified the need to invest nearly $100 million into the area and rescind the contracts to open the market for competition.
The aims of these reforms were to grow the economy by providing competitive wages to wharf workers in Haiti and competitive pricing for storage and shipping companies passing through the Caribbean.
Such reforms should have a favorable impact on exporting from the country and importing goods would come at a lower cost for Haitian consumers.
The government's plans to invest in the infrastructure is not being well received.
On Scoop FM Tuesday night, the government's plan to stimulate the economy by investing in the project and reforming the industry was criticized by a host of the radio station - assumed to be close to OPR.
The host chastised the government's project because it would be an investment in the success of private companies at the expense of what he calls a government agency, the OPR-port authority, partnership of the previous administration.
Public investment in private industries is nothing new in the world. In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama and congress authorized a $13 billion stimulus to automakers General Motors and Chrysler. This stimulus, today, is viewed as a great success as more American workers kept their jobs and were hired, as well, the tax revenue from the success of the reformed auto industry paid back the investment.
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