An unplanned and popular uprising occurred on Monday, September 2, 2019 when people woke up to find the streets and major roadways blocked with barricades and burning tires. The protest was against the increasing shortage of petrol across the country, more pronounced in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. This spontaneous action stemmed from the government’s decision to ration fuel that has been in short supply in recent weeks across the country causing major headache to drivers and operators of public transport who are unable to find fuel for their cars. The shortage of fuel caused severe economic impact across the nation. Many with businesses closed for the day as the entire capital was brought to a standstill, with people unable to get to work, school and various economic activities due to the lack of public transportation options. The government’s decision to ration fuel, as usual, created a level of mistrust among the people who concluded that the rationing is a political ploy by the government to increase the price of fuel, while at the same time, the suppliers and distributors have also complained about increasing tax and tariffs on petroleum products.
Meanwhile, the Secretary of State for Communication, Eddy Jackson Alexis is calling on residents to be calm and allow for an equitable distribution of fuel to the various stations across the capital and the country at large. According to Mr Alexis, there’s over 258,000 barrels of fuel already available at the Thor and Varreux terminals, ready to be transported to the various filling stations, but those blocking roads must first remove the barricades and burning tires so that the trucks can deliver the fuel to the various stations. The police, the trade association for petroleum products and the Secretary of State for Public Safety are said to be in contact with the government in order to make sure that the distribution is made in a safe and orderly manner. Mr. Alexis reminded the public that there has not been any increase in fuel prices, as first rumored, but rather, the authorities in conjunction with economists, are working on strategies to end subsidies for petroleum products without hurting the economy or the most vulnerable people, because the subsidies are a costing the country a lot more than necessary.
At the hills of the current unrest in the country is the end of summer and the impending beginning of the new school year. The network of Teachers’ union is planning on what it calls a multiform protest on Monday, September 9, 2019 to coincide with the beginning of the school year to protest the lack of government involvement and participation in the education of the youth. According to Magalie Georges of the Confédération nationale des éducatrices et éducateurs d’Haïti (CNEH), the protests will involve sit-ins, marches and demonstrations to bring attention to issues facing educators and students alike across the country. Some of the specific issues are lack of facilities where students can learn without any outside distractions, for instance, students sitting on stones, schools without access to water nor toilets across the country. Ms. Georges invited journalists present at the press conference to visit schools and observe for themselves at first-hand what the state of public education is across the country, and the conditions in which students are forced to learn. The organization is calling on the government to apply a special status on teachers and to establish a salary scale for teachers. Currently, teachers in the public sector receive the same salary level regardless of their education level and experience. Also, there are no protections for students and teachers in the increasingly dangerous security situation in the country. The CNEH laments the increasing insecurity that is taking root across the country with gangs and criminals terrorizing people in such urban neighborhoods such as Martissant and Bicentenaire in Port-au-Prince. Other grievances include the lack of textbooks in the bookstores, no salary adjustment for teachers with the national inflation currently climbing to over 19%, while a number of teachers have yet to receive their posting letters. But the outgoing Minister of Education and Professional Development, Pierre Josué Agénor Cadet, has confirmed that the government has set aside 700million gourdes to cover school supplies and projects in the 2019/2020 academic year.
The Ministry of Education just published the results of the baccalaureate exams with very encouraging results nationwide and notable departmental results as well. The Department de Centre recorded the highest pass rate, 98.2% which is unheard of, showing that only 14 students failed, out of a total of 1,186 candidates. Over all, all departments have success rates upwards of 75%. The department with the least pass rate is the West, where the success rate was at 73.3% though here, the actual number of candidates was higher than in all other departments; 18,854 candidates out of a total of 25,722 have passed. These results can be seen as a great achievement given that the country itself has been made ungovernable in the past several months, with school supplies still not readily available despite the return to school date fixed for September 9, 2019.
In other political news, the newly appointed Prime Minister, Fritz William Michel, whose nomination is still pending over a month since he was tapped to replace PM Ceant, has been once again been invited to parliament to present his policy proposals. The Legislature however agreed that the issues of impeachment of the current President Jovenel Moïse and the ineligibility of the Prime Minister because of fiscal clearance issues will not be addressed at this session. There have been issues regarding the Prime Minister’s fiscal clearance which force some opposition leaders to declare him unfit for the job, but this session is not expected to address that issue. The 5 nominated ministers who have been dismissed because of the same fiscal impropriety on their clearance have been replaced by another set of five (5) newly nominated people. While the session is expected to be held today, late sources have confirmed that opposition lawmakers, Jean Robert Bossé from Aquin and Joseph Manès Louis from Cabaret were seen destroying chairs and property in the chambers in order to prevent the session from taking place. The opposition lawmakers have made the resignation of the President and his nominated Prime Minister the sole condition for any talks and this appears to be more and more problematic for the government in particular, and the country in general.