Everything seems to indicate that on September 18 this country will complete six months without a functioning executive to deal with the urgent needs of the people and the acute economic crisis and rampant inflation; and to access the ‘altruistic’ loans of their international partners.
Anelí Ruiz García
The comings and goings of the Haitian government over the last five months would make great cinema were it not so crucial for this small nation which is in crisis and boasts very high rates of poverty and social unrest.
When members of parliament almost unanimously dismissed prime minister Jean Henry Céant last March for mismanaging the administration, exacerbating the crisis an9d clashing with the head of state Jovenel Moïse, a long period without a legitimate executive might have been foreseen, though not quite so long..
Moïse had already once been without a head of government for two months, when an increase in fuel prices in July 2018 was the trigger for an unprecedented social uprising which precipitated the resignation of Jack Guy Lafontant, who was also being questioned by MPs at the time.
In just over five months and having appointed two prime ministers, the cabinet has not been able to confirm the new PM’s appointment in parliament, despite pressure from Moïse and the open interference of the United States and its partners in the international community.
Céant was succeeded by Jean Michel Lapin, an experienced public servant who failed three times in the Upper House to deliver his political declaration, thwarted by opposition senators.
In a drastic and unexpected turn, the head of state appointed Fritz William Michel on July 22, and two days later signed the presidential decree to form a cabinet.
Changes in Cabinet
Michel had opted for gender parity and youth. Equal numbers of women and men in the executive, all with little experience in the political arena, and in charge of their own departments for the first time.
However, it was not long before irregularities emerged in property titles and certificates of residency in the documentation of some members of staff, in addition to debts with the treasury that the nominated ministers settled shortly before their appointment. Hermano Exinor, chairman of the committee of the Chamber of Deputies who analysed the files, criticized to the press the difficulties he had encountered in obtaining a report from the High Court of Accounts – to allow him to determine those individuals in charge of public funds – as well as the opinion of this court about the management of such funds.
For this MP it was a ‘political manoeuvre’ to hinder the commission in its work and to allow the appointed ministers to take office, without any prior trial.
The legislators also revealed their doubts about the nationality of Marie Faustine Hurley who was appointed minister of tourism and lived in the United States for 24 consecutive years and could have obtained US citizenship, which excludes her from taking public office in the country, according to provisions laid down in the constitution.
After several weeks of uncertainty, on August 29 Fritz William Michel confirmed, in official newspaper Le Monitor, a reshuffle of the cabinet, replacing five heads of department.
Already, Marjorie Alexandre Brunache, appointed as chancellor, had precipitated the reshuffle by offering her resignation, claiming personal matters as the reason without offering much in the way of detail. At the time she said that opposition MPs who had failed in their attempt to bring a motion to impeach the president had asked the president of the lower house, Gary Bodeau, to suspend the session for ratifying Fritz William Michel’s appointment.
According to MPs, the head of government did not receive administrative endorsement for the 2009-2011 period, when he had served as head of accounting for the General Budget Office in the treasury department.
They insisted that this situation makes him ineligible to head the government, according to regulations set down in the constitution.
While the future of the country is being played out between the National Palace (the seat of the president) and Parliament, the main economic and social indicators continue to plummet. A report by the Haitian Institute of Statistics revealed that the Consumer Price Index rose by 18% in May with respect to the same month in 2018, an unprecedented figure in the last decade.
This rise in prices is not accompanied by an increase in the basic wage which for almost a decade has not risen above five dollars a day while a bill that would increase by up to 86% workers’ incomes lies stagnant in Parliament.
Several international organizations have warned that almost three million Haitians are experiencing food insecurity and more than 500,000 of them are in an ’emergency phase’. Experts warn that the constant price rises will increase the poverty threshold under which almost 60% of the population already lives today. (PL)
(Translated by Nigel Conibear MCIL) – Photos: Pixabay