Many business opportunities exists in Haiti
By TERENCE MURRELL, Guardian Business Editor
Despite its development challenges, there are tremendous business opportunities for Bahamian and Caribbean firms in Haiti, opportunities which for the most part remain largely untapped.
This conclusion was reached in a recent report complied by the Caricom Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM), which conducted an in-depth analysis of the Haitian economy.
The report was sent to The Guardian by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, partly in response to comments made by Stephen Wrinkle, president of the Bahamian Contractors Association, about the difficulties of doing business in Haiti.
According to the report, despite a lingering perception of Haiti as an unstable country, a significant level of investment has already taken place by international firms such as Texaco, Royal Caribbean, Shell, Esso and more recently Digicel. In contrast, the level of investment and trade between Haiti and the rest of the region is minimal, despite its designation as a member of Caricom. The report therefore suggests that perhaps moves by Bahamian firms to build closer trade and investment links with its southern neighbor are long overdue.
Among the opportunities identified which Bahamian firms could exploit, are the possibilities of tapping into Haiti's traditional ties with France and accessing its $115 billion in annual foreign direct investment outflows. The report also cites Haiti's flexible and cheap labor force, as well as opportunities to provide a range of services, such as retail banking, in what is largely an underdeveloped services sector.
Another study commissioned by the World Bank concluded that Haiti outperforms Latin America and the Caribbean in a number of areas related to the ease of doing business. For example, it is easier to get business licenses (work permits, connections to public utilities, and completing building approvals/inspections) in Haiti. The report states that it takes 12 procedures and 141 days to get a business license in Haiti, compared with over 15 procedures and almost 200 days in the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, and 14 procedures and almost 150 days in the countries comprising the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is also easier to hire and fire labor in Haiti compared with the rest of the Latin American and the Caribbean.
"This of course is more of a fact finding mission, and any opportunities sought in a foreign market will come with some challenges, but the Haitian economy is showing positive signs," said Chamber president Dionisio D'Aguilar in a previous article, when questioned about the Chamber's upcoming trade mission to Haiti. "The trends are showing a movement up, rather than down...that market is not for the faint hearted, there will be challenges, but there will also be opportunities."