Fri | Apr 19, 2019

Haitian PM announces several initiatives aimed at ending demonstrations

Published:Sunday | February 17, 2019 | 11:01 AM
Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, CMC –Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant has outlined a series of measures, including a decrease in the price of basic commodities, as the government moves to end the violent demonstrations that have claimed the lives of at least seven people and calls for President Jovenel Moise to step down from office.

In a 20-minute television broadcast last night, Céant said there would be a 30 per cent cut in the national budget allocation to the office of the Prime Minister and that he is also suggesting that the Presidency and the Parliament do the same

In addition, Prime Minister Céant said there would be the abolition of all the “unnecessary privileges of senior state officials’ such as fuel costs, phone cards, travel abroad, amount of consultants on files and reconsideration of providing them with a second residence.

He said that these savings will, for example, strengthen the judiciary by giving it additional resources to facilitate the completion of the Petrocaribe trial.

Opposition political parties have been staging street demonstrations in support of their calls for President Moise to step down, after accusing him of not investigating allegations of corruption in the previous government over PetroCaribe, an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.

At least seven people have been killed in the protests so far. Several others have been injured in clashes with police.

Earlier this month, the President of the Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Disputes (CSC/CA), Pierre Volmar Demesyeux, presented a copy of the report on the management of projects financed by the PetroCaribe funds to the Speaker of the Senate Carl Murat Cantave.

Cantave has since presented the report to Senator Youri Latortue, the president of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

Céant said since he became head of the government, he had received the first preliminary report on the PetroCaribe probe and in a bid to accelerate and allow the country to recover the lost funds, he had announced the appointment of a new director of the Central Financial Intelligence Unit (UCREF) and a new director of the Anti-Corruption Unit (ULCC).

He said that the Government Commissioner will take faster action on the report of the Superior Court of Accounts and that the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSPJ) will put more judges to work on the PetroCaribe file.

Prime Minister Céant told the nation that the Superior Court of Audit will audit all the autonomous state enterprises so as to ensure that all funds diverted a recovered, adding “this will allow the state to obtain more money to provide additional services and help us provide the public with good services”.

In addition, the Haitian government said that official figures show that the country loses an estimated 60 billion gourdes (One Gourde =US$0.012 cents) annually at borders and Customs due to the smuggling of goods.

“Quickly, we will work with friends from the international community, the private sector, and the police with the Customs officials so that before the end of this year we can recover half of this amount. This money will allow it to be invested in domestic production, giving subsidies to farmers, loans to those who do business, and that is one of the ways in which we can bring down the exchange rate.”

Prime Minister Céant said he agrees with President Moise to “abolish all monopolies to protect people working in domestic production, such as small businesses

“In this sense, soon there will be a meeting with those who have big business in the country who are in the national production, to see what important decisions we can take together to create more jobs and thus reduce expenses, etc….

“I agreed with the president to meet all the factory owners to discuss with them and see how we can make an extra effort to manage the minimum wage so that workers can obtain an improvement.”

The prime minister said the government will meet with international partners, the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH), the Professional Association of Banks (APB), insurance companies “to redo the Industrial Development Fund (FDI), for it can once again become a development bank to finance economic recovery and provide young people with access and credit”

He told the nation that until all these measures work, ”we have already set up a direct programme together with local producers, importers and international partners to break the staple prices. Especially the price of rice that will go from 50 to 35 gourdes by next week”.