Gambling everything, thousands of Haitians have made their way across the Americas to reach small towns in the Brazilian Amazon over the past year in a desperate search for work, including a surge of hundreds arriving in recent days amid fears that Brazil’s government could slow the influx before it overwhelms the authorities here…Companies like Fibratec, a swimming pool manufacturer in southern Santa Catarina State, have even sent managers all the way here to hire dozens of Haitians.
Digicel, on the other hand, is the country’s largest employer and taxpayer. The privately held company has invested $600 million in Haiti, making it by far the country’s largest foreign investor ever, and it has democratized communications with its strategy of selling low-price cellphones and services to the masses.
Mr. O’Brien has profited extensively from Haiti, which is Digicel’s largest market and accounts for roughly one-third of its 11.1 million subscribers.
…Digicel, for instance, has put up street signs in parts of Port-au-Prince, serving as reminders of the company’s role in public life as much as guides for navigating the city.
Most mornings, people crowd around the reception desk of Digicel’s office building, not to complain about the firm’s services but to see the mayor and other city officials whose offices are on the sixth floor since the earthquake.
The company provides the space rent-free, Mayor Jean-Yves Jason said, and gave the city computers and furniture. “We have plans to build a new city hall in downtown Port-au-Prince, but we are so comfortable here it is easy to delay,” Mr. Jason joked.
The article gives some other stories of growing foreign investment in Haiti. Here is Twitter and the Haitian earthquake response. Also via Carl-Henri, here is a Le Monde article on the Haitian elite, and here is their excellent slide show.
I have been reading and enjoying Laurent Dubois’s new Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, one of the very best books on the history of the country. In 1914-15, about eighty percent of the government’s revenue went to debt service. It is one of those rare books where you can know a lot about the topic, and yet still learn something interesting on virtually every page.