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On board a US government plane bound for Haiti were also philanthropists, investors and even a Haitian rap star Wyclef Jean. Mr Ban and Mr Clinton are different in many ways, but both share a love of policy papers, and are enthused by one about Haiti written by economist Paul Collier.

He suggests that if jobs can be created in Haiti’s garment industry, this – coupled with Haiti’s access to US markets – could transform the country. Electricity must be made cheaper, and Haiti’s port put under better management. Mr Ban and Mr Clinton want to draw the world’s attention to Haiti, emphasising what investors and the international community can do to help.

These guys have been talking about their joint trip since the world economic forum in Davos, one aide explains. En route to Haiti, Mr Ban tells the BBC he wants to show solidarity with the country, and create a good political atmosphere. The motorcade is waiting at Port-au-Prince airport, and the VIPs are whisked away. We take the circuitous route to Cite Soleil, the slum on the outskirts of the capital. Apparently there are supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide we are avoiding. Brazilian UN peacekeepers patrol the streets. Their robust approach is credited with reducing crime here.

‘New future’

At a spick-and-span school in Cite Soleil, small children in smart uniforms are having lunch in a feeding centre. They sing for their guests, and look eagerly at the entourage. After looking round the school, Mr Clinton tells the BBC: “We hope by coming here that people back in America and throughout the world will see that Haiti’s worth supporting.

Laura Trevelyan travelled to Haiti with Mr Clinton and Mr Ban

“It doesn’t have to be the poorest country in the hemisphere, now they have a chance to build a new future,” he adds. Paul Farmer, a doctor whose organisation Partners for Health works in Haiti, was invited by Mr Clinton to join the trip. “I’m here with a bunch of people, if they would invest in manufacturing I’d he happy because it would create more jobs for the people I serve, the poor,” Mr Farmer says.

‘Real cinema’

Bill Clinton is popular with Haitians because he sent in US troops to restore President Aristide to power after he was toppled in a coup. The loudest cheers of people lining the streets are for Wyclef Jean, who has his own foundation here to help Haiti’s people. This is what Haitians call real cinema. The VIPs are in town, the crowds can watch for free.

The question is what difference this visit will make to Haiti’s future

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