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Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Haiti curruption-ridden system discourages investment
By The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti must reform its corruption-ridden customs system and encourage investment to lift the troubled Caribbean country out of poverty, President Rene Preval said on Monday.

In his annual speech before a joint session of parliament, Preval said the country loses badly needed revenue by allowing contraband to infiltrate its borders while charging exorbitant fees to businesses that import merchandise legally.

"Nobody is going to come to invest if the rules are not equal for everyone," said Preval, who is nearing the third year of his second, non-consecutive term in office.

He also called for continued cooperation with U.S. agencies and the 7,800-member U.N. peacekeeping force charged with maintaining stability in Haiti since a 2004 uprising that toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Peacekeepers recently announced the creation of four permanent operations bases on Haiti's 255-mile border with the Dominican Republic and patrols in Haitian ports, in part aimed at stopping smuggling and the illegal entry of goods.

Preval called for lower taxes on shipping containers, saying that rates up to US$900 (euro604) for a 40-foot container are three times higher than those at ports in the Dominican Republic and competing Central American countries, discouraging investment.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a per capita gross domestic product of just US$1,800.

He did not return to the theme of last year's address to parliament, in which he criticized the United States for not doing enough to help Haiti fight drug trafficking.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press

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