President Jovenel Moïse continues to make waves by keeping to some of his campaign promises, in fact with a dare to keep all the promises made by the end of his term. First in the list of promises is his caravan of change; an ambitious project to improve agriculture, infrastructure energy and rural development. Last week, he delivered a batch of heavy equipment to the Artibonite regional office of the Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Communication. Also present at the ceremony to deliver the equipment were the Prime Minister Guy Lafontant, Public Works Minister, Fritz Caillot, the Mayor of the town Neil Latortue and some legislators from the Artibonite Region and environs.
Speaking to the gathering, the President reiterated his commitment to developing the Artibonite region, as evidenced in his commitment to complete 400km of road network throughout the department, especially the Ennery/St.Michel, Gonaïves/Terre- Neuve, Carrefour Joffre/Gonaïves roads as well as roads in the Grand Saline municipality. The President went on to speak about the construction of the 4C dam and the building of a concrete mixing plant to help facilitate the building of canals in the valley. While extolling the virtues of his plan and how the much maligned 2018 budget is what made all these projects possible, at a price of some US$123 million, he announced that by the end of May, 2018, the municipalities will receive new garbage trucks to improve sanitation in the towns across the region. Similar distribution was made last Thursday at Hinche in the Plateau Department and the President impressed upon the people to make good use of the equipment to develop their communities.
In other news, the internal revenue service, the Direction générale des impôts (DGI) has announced that starting in February 2018, taxpayers will be able to file their taxes and pay their tax liabilities online. The Director of the agency, Miradin Morlan made the announcement at a press conference on Wednesday, stressing that the move is aimed at reducing the large crowds that gather at the offices of the revenue service in the capital as well as the departmental cities to pay their taxes. The digital approach, makes the payment of taxes more flexible where Haitians can meet their tax obligations wherever they may be. In spite of some technical glitches, a solution has been found at the end of a meeting between the agency, the Finance ministry and the professional association of banks, l’Association professionnelle des banques (APB). Mr. Morlan explained that the recent crowds at the DGI offices as a function of taxpayers waiting for the last minute to file their taxes. On a cautionary note, the director reminded those who have not been able to meet the January 31, 2018 deadline that a grace period has been accorded them, to file by the end of this month or face a 3% penalty that will be taxed on the amount to be paid.
In other news, overcrowding in the jails and prisons across Haiti is becoming a serious concern for the government and the judicial authorities. In recent months, authorities have been grappling with ways to stem the overcrowding, by instructing judges to limit the number of preventive detention meted out to low level offenders. The prolonged prevention detention is the main cause of the overcrowding. A senior Justice official speaking to the local media confirmed that the directive to the 18 jurisdictions has helped ease the overcrowding. Still, the Jovenel government is working to improve prevalent conditions. According to a ranking by World Prison Brief, Haiti ranks last among 205 nations studied in terms of over-crowded prisons. In June 2016, the 17 prisons across the nation had an occupancy rate 454% above normal with each detainee living in a space about half a meter square foot, far below the international norm of 4.5 meter squared. Overall, there are 16,500 detainees (about 96 per 100,000 people) for 2,431 available spaces. This overcrowding results in abuse of inmates, poor sanitary conditions and infections, malnutrition and violence. About 72% of the detainees are being temporarily detained without being convicted or seeing a judge. According to a study by the MINUSTAH in December 2016, the average number of days in detention was 1,100 days.
Meanwhile, the Chief Prosecutor of the Civil Court in Port-au-Prince, (tribunal civil de Première instance de Port-au-Prince), Ocnam Clamé Daméus tendered his resignation letter to the Minister of Justice, Heidi Fortuné, effective immediately. The letter, which was brief, did not mention any reasons for the resignation. It has been noted that the relationship between the two jurists has soured in recent weeks, since the Minister blamed Mr. Dameus for his prejudicial behavior in the negligent treatment of certain cases, more recently, the presidential pardon granted some 223 prisoners at the end of 2017.
Finally, there can soon be a new school of Voodoo to train young people. According to the confederation regrouping all the lakous, Confédération nationale des Vodouisants haïtiens (KNVA,) the religion is witnessing some intimidation campaign across the country with the recent burning down of a peristyle in Carrefour and the increasing false information being disseminated about the religion. The organization feels it necessary to act to reassure practitioners in the various lakous. After returning from Italy, President Moïse told reporters about a future papal visit to the island although no date has been fixed yet.