Nearshore Americas

Want to Really Help Haiti? Start Investing Now, Clinton Tells Business Elite

Former US president Bill Clinton appealed for big business to help Haiti “rise from the ashes” on Thursday as a rising Chinese leader made his biggest international appearance yet at the Davos forum.

While Greece’s prime minister attacked currency speculators, Clinton told the political and business elite at the World Economic Forum that real money could be made in the Caribbean nation where nearly 170,000 people died in the January 12 quake.

“They need to be helped through this hideous natural disaster,” said Clinton, a UN special envoy on Haiti, a country he said had been “punished by either being ignored or abused”.

“They’ve got the best chance they’ve ever had in my lifetime … to escape that past and we have the best chance we’ve ever had to be a part of that,” he said as he launched an initiative at the World Economic Forum to get private sector help for the stricken nation.

Clinton told business leaders they should “empower people who are as gifted and hard working and creative, under unbelievably adverse circumstances, as any I’ve ever seen.”

The man tipped to be China’s next premier promised more flexible economic policies but gave no sign that Beijing would revalue its currency or reduce its huge trade surplus as Western governments want.

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said China was confident of maintaining rapid growth and despite “many uncertainties” in the world economy and made a veiled attack on the United States over monetary discipline.

Li, who many expect to take over from Premier Wen Jiabao, called on the “global reserve currency issuers” to be more accountable. He did not name the United States, but the US dollar is the biggest reserve currency.

“Accountability and discipline on the part of global reserve currency issuers should be strengthened,” he told the forum.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou lashed out at speculators targeting his country’s econony as a “weak link” in the eurozone single currency area, but insisted Athens will stand firm.

Papandreou insisted that he had not sought a bailout from European Union partners, as French newspaper Le Monde reported.

“There is an attack on the eurozone by certain … interests, political or financial, and often countries are being used as the weak link for the eurozone,” said Papandreou.

Greece was being targeted under “an ulterior motive or agenda”, he added.

South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak joined the political onslaught against bank chiefs, saying they should not oppose reforms.

Lee increased the heat on top bankers after France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and billionaire financier George Soros spoke out forcefully for change on Wednesday.

“Bankers should not oppose these new measures,” Lee said after his speech to the forum.

“We need sensible and healthy changes to the international financial system,” he added.

Reforms to bank operations proposed by US President Barack Obama and other world leaders have dominated debate at Davos.

Sarkozy lashed out at the “indecent” pay in the finance industry and backed Obama’s action against speculative financing. Finance legend Soros supported Obama’s plan to clamp down on banks but said it was too soon and was not strong enough.

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Many leaders have also warned that the world is not yet safe from a return to recession or a new crisis. But President Lee, whose country is head of the Group of 20 nations this year, said it was time to set “a post crisis agenda”.

Lee said South Korea would seek agreement on “a stronger” international early warning system for financial crises and “concrete actions” to reform international financial governance.

“We should be on our guard against protectionism. But at the same time, we should be mindful of the side-effects of globalization that feed the antipathy toward greater global integration.”

A summit of the G20 leaders will be held in Canada in June but its main annual summit will be in Seoul in November.

Kirk Laughlin

Kirk Laughlin is an award-winning editor and subject expert in information technology and offshore BPO/ contact center strategies.

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