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TheStreet Open House

Clintons Land In Haiti To Showcase Industrial Park

Stocks in this article: SHW

The anchor tenant is South Korean apparel giant Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd, which begun production in May. It has agreed to create 20,000 permanent jobs within six years and also build 5,000 houses. Backers say the entire park has the potential to generate up to 65,000 jobs in all.

Sae-A, which shipped 76,000 T-shirts to Wal-Mart in the United States on Oct. 15, says it is training 1,050 people it has hired, 70 percent of them from the area surrounding Caracol. Daniel Cho, a representative of Sae-A in Haiti, said the employees will be paid almost $5 for eight hours of work.

A local paint manufacturing company, Peintures Caraibes SA, became the second tenant in July and will export paint made by Sherwin Williams along with its own paint; production begins next month. It's supposed to hire a total of 350 people.

Details are still being worked on to bring in other tenants, but the project's architects hope its duty-free status and a 15-year tax holiday will lure more companies.

Everyone agrees Haiti needs jobs. The country of some 10 million people is among the poorest in the world, and unemployment and underemployment hover around 60 percent. The money earned by those lucky to find work is spread thin.

Despite the promises of up to 65,000 jobs at the site, and projections of possibly 133,000 more jobs through related cottage industries, the Caracol project has drawn heaps of skepticism.

Critics say it's not much different from the factories to make baseballs for the U.S. sport that were built in the 1970s and 1980s under the regime of playboy dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

Those jobs prompted thousands of farmers to leave their fields for the capital, and agricultural areas succumbed to neglect. Shantytowns like Cite Soleil emerged to house the new workers. The factories got tax breaks but there was no income to offset Duvalier's alleged plundering of state coffers.

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