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Interview: Haitian president sets priorities for 2012

(Xinhua)

08:43, December 31, 2011

SANTO DOMINGO, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- Haitian President Michel Martelly said his government will continue to work on free education for all children and decent housing for people made homeless in a 2010 earthquake.

In a recent e-mail interview with Xinhua, Martelly said that setting up a health system and reconstruction are also the nation's priorities in the coming new year. He added that those projects would attract foreign investment and create new jobs.

The president said his government is making both medium- and long-term self-sufficiency plans to absorb foreign investments to "naturally replace financial aid."

"Tourism in Haiti, for example, has an immense potential and we are sure to build a strong market in this sector," the president said.

Martelly became president in May. He promised to bring change to his country, which was rocked by a devastating earthquake early last year that killed 222,570 people and caused an estimated loss of 7,900 million U.S. dollars.

The country also has struggled with a cholera epidemic that started in October 2010. The disease has since killed about 7,000 people.

Meanwhile, the government has also proposed to mobilize resources to create a million jobs over the next five years and redefine the role of Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (CIRH), the agency that administers the aid after the earthquake.

"The aid received from international cooperation of a large number of countries to promote the reconstruction of the country is beginning to see fruit in areas such as education, health, housing ...," the president said.

As for achievements in 2011, Martelly noted that some primary commitments made to 903,000 school children across the country have been met, including transportation and lunch.

"These children, who have transportation and school supplies to attend classes, are one of the major goals that have been achieved, as well as reconstruction work we have carried out," he said.

Martelly also referred to the program that delivers about 500 U.S. dollars to over 30,000 people living in camps and more than 150,000 in damaged neighborhoods, and helps them to buy a new place to live.

The re-opening two weeks ago of the country's largest airport, Toussaint Louverture International Airport, was also one of the nation's achievements in reconstruction, the president said.

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