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Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant’s dialogue

Saving the country or himself?

Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant, renewed his call for dialogue with the opposition in order to find a solution to the political impasse that is making the country almost ungovernable. The Prime Minister made this pronouncement at a recent press conference where he implored the opposition to come to the table to find a lasting solution to the crisis. The political impasse has caused many citizens to flee the country while also severely disrupting the nascent tourism industry. Meanwhile, the Uruguayan Embassy has called on the Organization of American States (OAS) to address the socio-economic and political crisis in Haiti to avoid it deteriorating further. In a press release, the Embassy is said to be satisfied with the steps taken so far by the government to find a negotiated solution to the crises, as evidenced in the recently set up commission to facilitate inter-Haitian dialogue, hope that by so doing, Haitians themselves will find an organic and lasting solution to the crises.

Former Interim President Jocelerme Privert also chimed in to encourage all political actors to work together to move the country forward because there’s no alternative to dialogue. In a meeting with President Jovenel Moïse, Mr. Privert insisted on the necessity of Haitians to dialogue among themselves, and “our motivation should not be our personal interests but those of Haiti”. He further elaborated that “we have an obligation to find common grounds on Haiti which is our common heritage”.  Speaking on Radio Métropole on their 49th anniversary, the former interim President harped on the issue again, stating that there will not be, and cannot be change and progress unless stability is restored in the country. Mr. Privert further took the occasion to congratulate the Widmaier family that has managed to make radio Metropole a national treasure.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant called for calm and patience as his administration works to address the 9 emergency measures announced after the 10 days of violent protests last month in the aftermath of publication of the PetroCaribe report. While the price of rice has dropped, sellers with unsubsidized stock must deplete their stock before selling the subsidized one which is pegged at 35 gourdes per small pot, which currently sells for 50 gourdes. The Prime Minister also announced nomination of new Directors of the Central Financial Intelligence Unit, de l’Unité Centrale de Renseignements Financiers (UCREF) and the anti-corruption unit, de l’Unité de Lutte contre la Corruption (ULCC). The individual directors have already been vetted prior to the official announcement. The aim of nominating new Directors is to these institutions charged with stemming corruption in the public sector, is to assure political and social agents of the transparency of the process. Leaders of civil society groups have demanded that those at the helm of those institutions must be people reputed for their independence and honesty, in face of the current PetroCaribe scandal.

Just next door at the National Palace, President Moïse reactivated the moribund disarmament and reintegration commission, Commission nationale de désarmement, de démantèlement et de réinsertion (CNDDR), in a ceremony held on March 11, 2019. The commission was the realization of a public announcement made by the President on November 21, 2018, with the goal of disarming the general public in a program akin to the buyback of guns programs, at a time when the security situation in the country is at a frightening high. But to some observers, it is not certain this new commission, comprised of Edwin Florexil, Innocent Joseph, Roodiny Jean Baptiste, Abler Roudy Lalane, Jean Chenet Lucien, Greatz Marie Lydie, Jean Rebel Dorcéna, Jude Jean Pierre and Frantz Toyo will achieve anything different than the prior one. This is because similar attempt at disarming the general populace was attempted in 2004 under the auspices of the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSTAH, and was not successful, as a result most people remain skeptical about this new commission.

In response to cries for help from residents in Cornillon Grand-Bois, located in the Croix-des-Bouquets district, some 52 kilometers from the capital, the President visited the area to assess the level of deterioration and worsening conditions in which the people live, especially with the drought that has hit this enclave. Accompanied by most of his cabinet and other officials, the President went to see firsthand the situation and access the level of short-term relief needed to eventually develop the area. The president met with the head of the Saint Anthony of Padua Parish Father Arthur Clergé, the police commissioner, the head of the local College and Health center to see what steps to take to address the concerns of the people. The President encouraged farmers to form cooperatives to work together in the community and distributed farm equipment and seeds to the farmers while imploring the population to be vigilant and protect equipment meant for road construction and other projects in the area. The Minister for Public Works, Fritz Caillot, confirmed that programs to bring potable water to the area are afoot, with boreholes and wells being dug in areas with groundwater, but that the water authority, DINEPA must build a concrete reservoir in the area. As far as road construction is concerned, the Minister confirmed that 13km road has been completed on the road linking the area to the capital, a number that represented a quarter of the road network to be constructed.

The government announced that it will suspend subsidies to the public electric company, EDH, for the next three years until the utility is able to bill properly for the energy produces, and until then, they must find another operating formula. The government is acting according to recommendations from the IMF, which asked the government to remove the subsidy, which it feels only increases the budget deficit. The entity must now do without the approximately 10billion gourdes that the government provides each year. The government though is not fully abandoning the public utility but engaging in what looks like a structural adjustment to bring the utility back in to the black, by focusing on the reforming the entire establishment focusing on how it bills for services and collect funds. The government recently signed a US$150million financial aid package from Taiwan to rebrand the EDH in order to renew the electric network. The contract is yet to be ratified by the legislature, a process after which the funds will be disbursed.

Dela Harlley

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