PARIS — Haiti's biggest foreign investor said Tuesday he he was working alongside former US president Bill Clinton on a "Marshall Plan" to rebuild Haiti after the deadly earthquake there.
"Obviously we need foreign direct investment but on a wider front we need a Marshall plan," said Irish telecom billionaire Denis O'Brien, referring to the US initiative launched in 1947 to rebuild western Europe after World War II.
"That's what we've been discussing here this morning with president Clinton -- how do you put together a composite plan for the rebuilding of Haiti right now," he said by telephone from Florida.
O'Brien, whose Digicel mobile phone company is also one of Haiti's biggest private employers, was talking during a break in a meeting of Clinton Global Initiative charity that gathered business leaders and aid agencies.
He, like Clinton, on Monday toured Port-au-Prince to see for himself the extent of the devastation caused by last Tuesday's tremor that killed tens of thousands and flattened most of the capital.
He said foreign investment would be key to reviving Haiti's economy and urged companies to follow his lead and dive in despite the problems of corruption, political instability and rampant crime that afflict the island.
"Anybody thinking about setting up manufacturing facilities or any business in Haiti, I will give a very strong recommendation they go ahead and do it," he said, adding that Digicel has made a five-million dollar donation for immediate relief work.
Digicel, which has more than two million customers in Haiti, has ploughed about 400 million dollars into building a state-of-the art mobile network for the country since it kicked off there in 2005, said O'Brien.
Back then just four percent of the 10-million strong population had access to a phone, he noted.
His firm's 12-storey headquarters in Port-au-Prince, which was completed just six months ago, survived last week's tremor because it was built to be quake-proof, unlike most structures in the city, he said.
Digicel said Monday it had restored 70 percent of its network's coverage in Port-au-Prince, and intended to complete repairs by the end of the week.
The company said it has also given each of its customers in Haiti the equivalent of five US dollars in free credit so they can keep in touch with relatives in the wake of the quake.
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