Three years have elapsed since the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Haitians, destroyed some of our cities and collapsed our infrastructure. That tragic seminal event was an end and a beginning; a moment in time that serves to gauge the direction our country, the quality of our leadership and the perseverance of our people.
Indeed, the tragedy of the earthquake provided an opportunity to rebuild our country, to restructure our political institutions, and redefine our development path. With the help of the international community we have been gradually moving toward the goals of reconstructing and modernizing Haiti that were established in the aftermath of the event. I want to thank the American people for their generosity in coming to Haiti’s aid and for their support for our development programs.
The government of President Michel Martelly, in which I am privileged to serve as prime minister, received a mandate to accelerate the pace toward these goals. We entered office with a vision of leaving behind a very different Haiti than the one we inherited. During the past 20 months we have worked diligently to create a new Haiti characterized by a stable political environment and economy, and a better and more democratic society.
Against all odds, Haiti is better off today that it was two years ago.
Nearly 80 percent of Haitians forced into camps by the earthquake are back in their communities. Ninety-five percent of the rubble has been cleared, and we have begun the reconstruction of our public buildings, as well as schools and hospitals.
We have launched important new social assistance programs for the most vulnerable, and we are reaching four million people with these initiatives. We have also broken five of the biggest crime organizations in Haiti and are reinforcing our police with more staff and new, innovative technologies.
We have introduced free primary education and as a result 1.27 million children are attending school for free, many of them for the first time. We will be teaching 300,000 older people to read and write this year.
We have rebuilt the main airport, are building three airports at tourist centers and building hundreds of miles of new roads.
We are investing in sanitation and clean water and we have put in place a plan to eradicate cholera, which is already in decline. The number of cases in the last week of December 2012 was just 7 percent of the weekly number at the peak in 2011.
We have maintained a very stable economic environment, which alongside the opening of a major industrial park in the north has led to a considerable increase in foreign direct investment. In 2011 Haiti received $181 million in net foreign investment which represented a 21 percent increase over 2010 figures.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has projected an 8 percent growth rate for 2013, which would mean that Haiti will lead the hemisphere in GDP growth this year.
We have improved electricity supply in the capital to 18 hours a day and intend to reach 24 hours.
We are taking action on corruption and have reduced government expenditures on administration to maximize funds for key programs.
Finally, thanks to our efforts and those of our international partners, Haiti is safer than most of its neighbors with violent death rates comparable to some of the most tranquil places in the Americas such as Long Beach, Calif., or Valparaiso, Chile.
There is much left to be done. Without the continued partnership of the international community the road to accomplish our goals will be slower, longer, and more difficult. Nonetheless, Haitians of all sectors and strata are conscious that the time to assume the full leadership of and responsibility for our recovery is right around the bend.
Each day we are closer to standing on our own. We hope that moments such as these when we remember those who died tragically on Jan.12, 2010, serve not as a moment to question our resolve but to honor our fallen compatriots and to renew our pledge to build a better Haiti for our children and grandchildren.
Laurent Lamothe is prime minister of Haiti.