mercredi 6 août 2014

Haiti looks to welcome back tourists

Not too many people think of Haiti as a modern tourist destination.
The Caribbean nation is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere -- with a history of grinding poverty, civil unrest and violence. Haiti is also still recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake that left well over 100,000 dead and more than 1.5 million survivors homeless.
But 2014 has seen a blossoming of tourist industry investment in Haiti. Just this week Carnival Corporation (CCL), the parent company of Carnival Cruise lines, said it signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a $70 million port facility on Tortuga, an historic island off Haiti's northern coast.
The port project "represents a major commitment to the people of Haiti by Carnival Corporation -- the largest cruise company in the world, with nine industry-leading brands and dozens of ships operating in the Caribbean, the world's most popular region for cruise vacations," David Candib, the company's vice president, development and operations, told the Caribbean Journal.
Candib added the facility would generate "significant development and construction activities," with the creation of an estimated 900 direct and indirect jobs.
"The project will be an anchor for further development on the island," he continued. "We are working together with the Haitian people and government to build Tortuga into popular and economically sustainable Caribbean destinations."
The Carnival project would create the second major cruise ship port in Haiti. Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) has had a private resort facility in Labadee, on the country's northern coast, that it leased from the Haitian government until 2050.
Meanwhile, American Airlines (AAL) recently announced the start of daily service between Miami International Airport and Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second city, beginning in October.
"This is a big deal," said Art Torno, American's senior vice president of operations for Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America, told the Miami Herald. "That area of the country has about 35 percent of the population, and has always been a desirable place for us."
Torno notes the Cap-Haitien region also includes Labadee as well as a $300 million, U.S.-backed industrial park project.
And this past April Hilton Worldwide (HLT) signed an agreement to build a new Hilton Garden Inn at Louverture Airport in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The hotel is scheduled to open in 2016.
Tourism reportedly accounts for about five percent of Haiti's GDP, and those numbers are expected to change dramatically in the next several years.
But not everyone is convinced the Carnival port deal will, in the long-term, end up benefiting Haiti's economy and its people.
Jim Walker, a Miami-based maritime attorney and author of the cruiselaw.com blog, recently wondered if any Haitians will be employed at the new facility -- and if the construction of a pier designed to accommodate large cruise ships will lead to long-term environmental damage.
Also, he added, "will this be a private island for the exclusive benefit of Carnival and its passengers? Will this be a lease similar to the 260 acres of prime waterfront property (Labadee) which Royal Caribbean leased (ripped off) from Haiti?"

Immigrants Lift Chile’s Labor Market While Wages Kept Low

By Javiera Quiroga Aug 6, 2014 6:01 AM GMT+0200
Chile immigration vs workforce growth
Haitian immigrant Jameson Lazarre says he sometimes works shifts as long as 24 hours at the warehouse of a plastics factory because his temporary visa inChile depends on keeping an employment contract. “I spent so much time looking for a job in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, that I am willing to do whatever here as long as I remain employed,” Lazarre said while standing in Santiago’s central square. Lazarre was one of a record 158,128 foreigners who obtained temporary or permanent residency in this country of 17 million last year, according to the Immigration Department. The influx helped Latin America’s wealthiest nation create almost 1 million jobs in the four years through March, while keeping a lid on wages. The new arrivals accounted for about three quarters of the increase in Chile’s workforce in 2013, when the jobless rate fell as low as 5.7 percent.
Now the economy is expanding at the slowest pace in four years and unemployment has started to rise. With more people likely to continue arriving, wage increases should slow from 6.5 percent in May, easing pressure on inflation that fell to 4.3 percent in June.
Immigration has “contained wage growth, one of the most important costs of production, avoiding a rise in consumer prices,” said Hermann Gonzalez, an economist in the local unit of Spain´s Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA.
Unequal Conditions
Lazarre, 24, abandoned an agronomy course in Haiti after a year because he didn’t have the money to complete his studies. He chose to come to Chile last year after trawling the Internet to see which countries offered the best prospects. What he didn´t know is that he would get paid half as much as Chileans doing the same job and that he often would be paid late.
“Employers take advantage of foreigners because they know we depend on two years of uninterrupted work at a company in order to apply for permanent residency,” Lazarre said.
Chile’s main labor union federation, known as CUT for its initials in Spanish, welcomes the arrival of foreigners, as long as they don’t undercut local workers and don’t represent more than 15 percent of any one company’s workforce, as stipulated in the law.
“We are not against their arrival if they are given the exact same conditions and benefits as Chilean workers,” said Jose Figueroa, who represents farm laborers and indigenous peoples at CUT. “The problem is that some businessmen pay them much lower salaries than established in Chilean legislation and we won’t accept that.”
Economic Boom The flow of people into Chile helped the economy grow an average 5.1 percent in the four years through 2013 as an investment boom in the mining industry pushed unemployment down from 9.7 percent at the end of the 2009.
The boom fed a 24 percent jump inimmigration last year, with Chile attracting workers from countries such asPeru and Colombia and to a lesser extent, Spain and Argentina. Of the arrivals, only 20,758 were 18 or younger.
About three quarters of new arrivals are Latin American and are linguistically, culturally and religiously similar to the Chileans. Peruvians accounted for 31 percent of last year’s immigrants. Peruvian restaurants have opened up across Santiago, with Peruvian maids replacing many of their Chilean counterparts over the past decade. Haitians have become a common sight in a country where there was almost no black population 20 years ago.
Following Jobs
The influx accounted for much of the 183,240 increase in the labor force in 2013 as Chile’s birthrate declined and more young people chose to stay on in university or training.
“The vast majority of foreigners come here to work, especially in the construction and services sectors,” said Pedro Hernandez, immigration official at the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
While Chile has seen previous waves of immigrants, including Germans starting in the 1850s, Arab Christians during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Croatians before the 1920s, it has never experienced the same levels of immigration as Argentina or Brazil.
The Immigration Department estimates there are 441,000 foreigners living in Chile legally, accounting for about 2.7 percent of the population. That is the highest level since 1920 and compares with 1.22 percent in 2002.
Cristian Hernandez, 48, gets up at 5 a.m. every morning to peel potatoes, beetroot and carrots in the Santiago neighborhood of Cerro Navia. His hands are full of cuts from the work. No Guess
The government doesn’t even hazard a guess at how many undocumented immigrants like Hernandez there are in Chile.
“I am obliged to put up with the conditions employers set,” said Hernandez, who was a bartender in the Dominican Republic before arriving in Chile about two years ago. “I am willing to do whatever in order to survive.” Now, the economy is slowing, unemployment is rising and the flow of immigrants could turn into a problem, economist Gonzalez said. The jobless rate climbed to 6.5 percent in the three months through June from 6.2 percent in the same period a year earlier. “As the creation of jobs stagnates and there is even a decline in positions, people are starting to get fired,” Gonzalez said. “The question is who will go.” BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) announced July 29 that it would reduce staff by 6 percent at its Pampa Norte copper mine in Chile because of declining ore grades and rising costs. The number of people employed in the mining industry fell 8.5 percent to 236,020 in the year through June. Slower Pace
As the mining boom petered out, GDP expanded 2.6 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the slowest pace in four years. Manufacturing (CHIPMFGY) has declined in eight of the past 12 months, and retail sales rose 2.3 percent in June, the second-slowest pace since 2009.
Still, immigration is not a concern, Economy Minister Luis Felipe Cespedes said in an interview on July 22. “It is a natural process in a nation that is growing and that is attracting people due to its economic dynamism.”
The flow of immigrants would slow as economic growth eases, he added.
Past experience doesn’t bear that out. When the economy contracted 1.5 percent in 2009, new arrivals rose to 100,069 from 84,249 the year before. Immigration then slid to 81,002 in 2010 before rebounding to 95,130 in 2011. There are no figures available on how many people are leaving the country.
Madsen Macelus -- who came from Haiti in 2010 and has worked on various construction sites since then -- has managed to bring over his wife, son and cousin as he applies for a permanent visa.
Pay Better Many other immigrants plan to have family members and friends join them, even though they recognize finding jobs has become harder as the economy slows. The pay, they say, is still better in Chile.
Chile’s GDP (CLGDPNA%) per capita on a purchasing power parity basis is $19,888, compared with $11,730 in Colombia, $11,735 in Peru and $1,370 in Haiti, according to the International Monetary Fund. “There is no work in Haiti, and Chile is an easy country to get into,” said Macelus, 39, who has no plans to return to his home nation.
For now, there is no serious blacklash against foreigners. While there was an anti-immigrant march in October in Antofagasta in northern Chile where many Colombians have settled, there have been no protests in Santiago where most foreigners live.
Still, there will be increasing competition for jobs as foreigners represent a larger share of workers entering the labor market.
“When I arrived only eight months ago it was easy getting a job, but now there are so many foreigners that it takes time,” said Lazarre. “There are loads of jobless immigrants.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Javiera Quiroga in Santiago atjquiroga5@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Philip Sanders atpsanders@bloomberg.net;
Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net Gail DeGeorge

Local Boy Helps Build Haiti House

A local child has a dream of building a house. Cohen Heady, a seven-year-old who will be starting second grade at Eisenhower Elementary School this year, has been working on a project for nearly a year to build a house for a family in Haiti.
“My family has another family in Haiti that are near and dear to our hearts, the Alexis family,” says Sabrina Heady, Cohen’s mother. “My brother’s family has been able to give them some rice, my mom has given some of her clothes for Rosemaide, the mom in Haiti. My kids have drawn them pictures.”
Sabrina is president of a local organization called Haiti Hungry No More. The group offers aid to needy families in Haiti.
“A couple of months ago we had an amazing sermon from our pastor, Tim, that talked the importance of giving,” Heady wrote on her Facebook wall in January. “This has spawned a reaction you could not believe, especially in Cohen. That Sunday we talked so much about different kinds of needs people have, whether it is food, heat, a home, using various examples. We didn’t realize the impact it was impressing on Cohen. The next day he came home, six years old, and ready to take on the world.”
The next day, Cohen drew a picture in school and wrote a note. “He wants to build the Alexis family a home,” wrote Heady.
The Alexis family are currently renting a home in Haiti, and 13 family members reside there. “It is a one bedroom style with curtains hanging up here and there to make a couple of more ‘rooms,’” Heady wrote.
Heady made copies of Cohen’s picture and note, and wrote a letter of her own. These copies were distributed around the Heady’s neighborhood.
“The response has been overwhelming,” says Heady. “To hear Cohen screaming with pride as he opened his first donation letter (of many) from his kindergarten teacher, is something I will never forget. He has been filled with this passion I’ve never seen him have before.”
The Heady family has raised over $3,000 for the Alexis family’s new home. The Alexises started building their new home in February, but Heady says they still need approximately $7,000 more to complete it.
Heady says she’s not asking for donations. She simply wanted to share her son’s story. However, knowing that some of our philanthropic readers may want to help out, I’ve asked Heady to give instructions on how to donate to Cohen’s project. That information will be added once it is provided.