Former Prime Minister of Jamaica Percival Patterson.

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Former Jamaica Prime Minister Percival Patterson believes that the January 12 earthquake in Haiti provides an opportunity for the full integration of the nation into the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

He however said while CARICOM was there to assist and advise, Haiti must be primarily responsible for its own development plan.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and an Inter-American Development Bank study released in February estimates that the cost of rebuilding the nation could be US$7.2 billion to US$13.2 billion.

The study was based on a statistical analysis of data from 2,000 natural disasters over 40 years.

Earlier estimates had hovered around US$5 billion, taking into account 200,000 to 250,000 persons died in the magnitude 7.0 quake.

Patterson said the devastation wreaked by the earthquake must be converted into an opportunity to build a new and sustainable economy and a society capable of satisfying Haiti’s goals and targets set for the new Millennium.

His comments came while addressing a committee of civil society representatives in St Lucia.

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The committee was formed to help ensure a more cohesive response to the national effort aimed at assisting the people of Haiti.

Patterson, who led Jamaica from 1992 to 2006, said the French dialects spoken in St. Lucia and Dominica were similar to Haiti’s and noted the nations’ shared colonial past.

“This makes your nations ideally suited to assume a leadership role as CARICOM establishes its physical presence in Haiti to assist the redevelopment.”

He however said that while Haiti had not yet subscribed to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), President Rene Preval has repeatedly indicated that the nation’s future model of development must be one consistent with that of integration into CARICOM.

“Future policy and planning for the country must therefore take this into account and be geared towards helping it to become a full beneficial member of the CSME,” Patterson said.

Patterson noted Haiti intended focus on agriculture, light manufacturing and services, with tourism as a key driver in the recovery process, given its linkages with agriculture, arts, crafts, and culture.

He said planning and small business development are important in the context of climate change, sustainability and the creativity of the Haitian people, utilizing the depth and diversity of the CARICOM cultural profile.