Monday, May 14, 2018 marked the end of the first part of the 2018 legislative session, a session marked with little legislative accomplishment. Together, both the senate and the chamber of deputies conducted 24 plenary sessions in 18 weeks and their weak performance could not easily be explained away by any one factor. But the disdain with which hold the legislature was visible in the amount of postponement of sessions due to a lack of quorum. The secretaries of the offices of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies have paid lip service to cancelled meetings due to lack of quorum but hailed the meetings of the standing committees as evidence of accomplishment. Overall, there were three (3) bills passed by the Senate and six (6) by the Chamber of Deputies. The ruling tet kale, PHTK and their allies in the legislature have failed to instill discipline or discipline elected officials as part of their legislative agenda, and the crisis resulting from the PetroCaribe investigations and report have contributed to the poor performance of the legislature. Senate President Joseph Lambert has avoided mentioning the dismal behavior exhibited by his peers while the Speaker of Chamber of Deputies, Gary Bodeau has unsuccessfully tried to combat absenteeism, using all the legislative tools available.
Meanwhile, in his remarks to the legislative assembly, marking the end of the first legislative session of the year, Senate President, Joseph Lambert plead for the formation of the Permanent Electoral Council in time for the 2019 elections. Mr. Lambert called on the three branches of government and their leaders to do everything possible to appoint the nine (9) representatives to the electoral commission as soon as possible because, in his words, the commission should have been formed since 1990. Mr. Lambert’s remarks were aimed at his colleagues who have failed to designate their three (3) nominees and have only come up with a list of 21 potential candidates from which to select the three (3). As it turns out, the election of the three (3) to the electoral commission members must wait until legislators come back from recess in mid-June to then vote.
While disappointed at the way the legislature is moving, Mr. Lambert reminded fellow law makers of the many challenges ahead of the 2019 elections. The government, this time around, must conduct elections without the security and logistical support from the UN peacekeeping force MINUSTAH, which has been very instrumental in the past 15 years in ensuring orderly elections, and whose presence and support add credibility to the electoral process. For the upcoming elections to take place, there needs to be serious discussions and thoughtful arrangements made so that there can be peaceful, transparent and credible elections. The October 2019 elections will renew a third of the Senate and all the lower house. But at this stage, the Speaker noted, he does not know if the elections will be organized by the permanent or provisional electoral commission, and, whether the discord among the various political parties, will interfere with the setting up of fair and full elections. As such, Mr. Lambert calls on the legislators to set aside their disagreements and come together to nominate their delegates so that the elections can take place smoothly.
The National Association for Registered Nurses, l’Association nationale des infirmières et infirmiers licenciés d’Haïti (ANILH), has called on the government to improve healthcare services in the country, following the guidelines in the Haitian constitution mandating the provision of healthcare services. ANILH which this week is celebrating nurses’ week criticizes the government for not doing enough to meet the health needs of the population. According to ANILH’s president, Ms. Lucie Charles, the government must put in place measures to address the health care needs of the people, because currently, conditions are not in place to help the sick, even in hospitals in the capital Port-au-Prince, let alone in the remote areas of the country. Ms. Charles criticized the meager budget allocated to the health sector, which she feels is insufficient to create better working conditions for healthcare workers. The allocation for health care represents only 4.3% of the budget for the 2017/2018 fiscal year. In March 2017, the former PAHO/WHO representative in Haiti, Dr. Jean-Luc Poncelet suggested that the “Lafontant government must devote a minimum of 16% of its resources to health in order to be on the same level as other low-income countries”. The nurses again decried the brain drain caused by this resource limited sector. Most health care workers leave the country to practice their profession abroad under more favorable conditions. According to estimates, more than 40% of nurses trained in Haiti are in Canada, United States and various, countries in South America where they practice under more favorable conditions. The Ministry of health (MSPP) reported in April that of 174 nursing schools in the country, only 83 meet professional operating conditions.
With the upcoming world cup fast approaching, soccer fans have been thrown a bone in the form of increased electricity production, which will enable them to watch games without much disruption. According to the state electric company, Ed’H, there are plans afoot to increase electricity production capacity beginning in June to coincide with the World Cup that begins on June 14. The Ed’H will increase the production capacity from 115 to more than 130 megawatts from the Péligre Hydroelectric power plant. At a press conference to give a report on the performance of his company, the Director of Ed’H, Hervé Pierre Louis said that the Péligre plant produces 34 megawatts, independent producers, 75 and the Ed’H supplying the remaining 30 megawatts. This supply will be increased in due course. The other news is that billing and collections have increased significantly from 47% in January 2018 to 56% in March in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan region. In the other parts of the country, the rates went up from 29.9% to 33.7% respectively. This increase amounts to 443million gourdes collected in April 2018, compared to 279million gourdes in April 2017.