The newly nominated Prime Minister, Jean Michel Lapin submitted his asset declaration papers and general policy guidelines for his incoming administration in compliance to constitutional requirement. Ratification is required by the legislature before the Prime Minister is officially allowed to take office. Speaking briefly to journalists after meeting with the Senate President, Carl Murat Cantave, Prime Minister Lapin sounded optimistic that the Legislature will ratify his policies, because the policies are in the interest of the general population and he does not foresee the lawmakers would oppose such policies. He is also certain that the documents he submitted to Parliament as required by the constitution will be approved, clearing the way to legally begin working as the new Prime Minister. However, the document submission to the legislature came at a time when most of the legislators are away in their districts due to the Easter holidays. PM Lapin, a veteran public administrator, is taking his first major steps into the political limelight in the shadow of President Jovenel Moïse, could use the holiday period to fine tune his policy proposals and continue negotiations with lawmakers.
While speaking about Senators and Easter, the Senator from the Artibonite region, Youri Latortue was seen handing out cartons of eggs yesterday in the parliament house to fellow legislators, staffers and visitors as well. Word got around that there was egg distribution and staffers rushed to get their share of the gift, which is a personal effort by the president of the senate ethics and anti-corruption committee. The eggs came from his farm located in Léogâne. The sentiments of those present were mixed. While some thought the gift was a good gesture that should be emulated by other law makers, they see the gesture as politically motivated. Others refuse to accept the eggs because of their opposition to the donor and see this as a way for him to score political points especially with regards to the upcoming elections. But this is not the first time the senator was doing this. He did similar distribution last year and again the reaction was the same.
Distributing eggs during this Easter holiday comes at a time when the food situation in the country is continually worsening with households unable to afford a balanced diet. A joint survey by the World Food Program (PAM Haiti) and the national coordination for food security, Coordination Nationale pour la Sécurité Alimentaire (CNSA), found that the diversity of the household diet is low, with one in two households reporting not having eaten a balanced meal in over a week. The problem is made worse by the horrific economic conditions in the country, with a rate of inflation that topped 17% in February, and continues to climb, making it difficult for those already vulnerable to economic scarcity to feel even more threatened. A balanced diet is elusive for 31% of households, and moderate for almost half of households. Half of the households reported eating foods deficient in iron during the past 7 days, while a quarter of the households reported not eating foods rich in vitamin A and protein. These food types are very infrequently consumed by households which could not afford them. More heartbreaking is that these households where the nutrition is deficient in iron, proteins and vitamin A reported that they spent upwards of 65% of their income on food. Given the drought, agricultural production has fallen, and households are more likely to purchase foodstuff instead of producing food. While households that consume their own produce dropped by 29%, those buying food increased by 27%. The World Food program estimated some 1.5 million people, or 300,000 households are facing food shortage or nutritional deficiencies across the nation. Food production in the past three years has been hit by the drought and as households try to adapt to the situation, they make choices that only aggravate their nutritional deficiencies, and the small-scale farmers are increasingly vulnerable.
In the face of this increasing vulnerability of the peasants and small-scale farmers, there is a report that the government is planning on appropriating farm land to undertake projects that the local peasants deem is bound to push them off their land and subsistence. According to the group, Tèt kole ti peyizan ayisyen, the government is planning to acquire lots of hectares of land from the Central Plateau to the national brewery, Brasserie nationale d’Haïti (BRANA) to cultivate petit mil. Also, in Saint-Michel de l’Attalaye, in the North Artibonite region, vast acres of land were given to entrepreneur André Apaid to cultivate for export crops. Still, in Terrier-Rouge, the City Council and members of the President’s party, tèt kale (PHTK) ordered the demolition of the training center belonging to the Mouvman peyizan nasyonal kongrè Papay, which sits on some 28 hectares of land. The group sees such actions by the government as a threat to the peasantry and called on the Justice department to investigate the stealing and land grabbing by the local authorities.
While peasants decry the government’s land grab policies, residents in parts of the metropolitan area are raising their voice against a new trend that sees gas stations being built across the capital, especially in the past three years. A new station being built around the junction leading to Delmas 60 is target for a number of complaints including noise pollution as the work is proceeding both day and night. Residents of the area are not only appalled by the noise but are worried about the construction of such a structure in a purely residential neighborhood and the potential for fire. While residents wonder if the construction in the residential neighborhood is legal, the engineer who is overseeing the project, Mr. Beauplan confirmed that he has all the legal documents to build at the location. Mayor Dominique St-Roc expressed his concerns also for building such potentially harmful businesses in residential and commercial areas across the city but said, he has no control as long as the people have the legal papers and favorable environmental impact statements to build whatever they want.
A strike action by healthcare workers at the general hospital, which was planned for Monday, April 15, 2019 was cancelled, after leaders met with the outgoing Minister of Health and Public Safety, Marie Gréta Roy Clément, who said she shared their grievances and planned to consider them. While acknowledging the validity of their grievances with regards to the improvement of working conditions and salary increases at the hospital, she tempered her recognition of the grievances with the fact that she may be on her way out, as a new government is formed. She planned to meet with ministry leaders during the Easter holidays to try to workout a plan to address their grievances.
Finally, 40 migrants who reached the island of Inagua in the Bahamas were detained by the security forces last Tuesday. The illegal migrants, including 6 women, who were scattered across the island as their boat reached shore, were sought and apprehended by the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) and transported aboard a ship belonging to the security forces to Matthew Town on the island of Great Iguana where they were handed over to the immigration authorities. According to the authorities, there have been some 300 Haitian migrants detained by the security forces since the beginning of the year. Bahamas is an important destination of Haitian boat people in the past but recent changes in the immigration law allows the authorities to detain and deport illegal migrants on their territory.