Born in 1958 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, son of a physician and a senior official of the World Health Organization (WHO), Jean-Max Bellerive left his homeland at an early age to begin his primary, secondary and university studies in Switzerland, France and Belgium. He graduated with a degree in Political Science and International Relations and returned to Haiti in 1986. He made his debut in the private sector as Coordinator of l'Aquinoise, a fishing cooperative located in the south and financed by the European Union.
In 1988, he joined the Ministry of Interior and Local Authorities as Assistant Chief of the Department of Analysis and Policy Perspectives. He left that post in 1990 holding the title of Director of Organization and Method Unit and Acting Director General.
In 1990, with some colleagues in the Civil Service, he founded Sibel Consult, a management and project development agency. In such capacity, he collaborated with public institutions including the Secretariat of State for Tourism, the National Port Authority, Banque Populaire Haitienne, the Provisional Electoral Council and the Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad, and several private firms.
He served at the Provisional Electoral Council from 1999-2000, as the Chairman of the Electoral Bureau for the West. Between 2000 and 2006, he occupied the functions of Chief of Staff for Prime Minister Jean-Marie Chérestal, Chief Technical Advisor to Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and Coordinator of the Coordination and Monitoring Unit for Public Policies, financed by UNDP and attached to the Office of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue.