Caracol: None of Your Business (HB75)

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This Briefing analyses the situation at the Caracol Industrial Plant, a $424,000,000 assembly-plant "development" project that has created fewer than 2000 less-than-minimum wage jobs. Production may benefit foreign investors and consumers but it certainly is of no benefit to Haitian workers.

In the first article, we question the viability and sustainability of the CIP. In particular, we look at how this development model fails to profit Haitian workers in terms of wages or skills or the Haitian government in terms of taxes or revenue.

In the second article, we show how wage theft in the Haitian apparel industry has become systematic. Many workers receive 200 gourdes a day which is an out-and-out violation of minimum wage law. Put simply, wages are not enough to live on due to the institutionalized non-compliance on workers' basic rights regarding pay, safety and working conditions.

Bill and Hillary Clinton hyperbole aside, even its lead- ing cheerleaders never actually expected much of the Caracol Industrial Park (CIP) assembly plant complex, the flagship development project of post-earthquake reconstruction in Haiti.

“Creating an exclusively garment assembly zone is something everyone, I wouldn’t say tries to avoid, but considers last resort,” concludes José Agustín Aguerre, the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) Haiti manager. “Yes, it’s low-paying, yes, it’s unstable, yes, maybe tomorrow there will be better opportunities for firms else- where and they will just leave.”

Yes, indeed. Acknowledged as a

huge risk for Haiti and the foreign tax-payers who subsidized it, pro- moted as a job-creation machine that would pay only poverty wages, admitted to be a capital cost rather than tax benefit to the Hait- ian government on whom it was foisted, the only justification was, in one frank foreign financier’s words, that it was “better than nothing.”

Now, even that, seems an exaggeration. Nearly 18 months after production began, fewer than 2,000 of the 65,000 less-than-min- imum-wage jobs promised have been delivered; the port on which the project depends may never be built, and the farming families who were displaced from some of the most fertile land in Haiti to build it have yet to be relocated.