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News from Haiti:

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Commentary: Haiti has at last a constitutionally elected president!
Published on February 9, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean H Charles

Last year at this time, the New York Times ran an article titled: “Michel Martelly, Haiti’s President, Departs Without a Successor”, it took a full year for the election process to be completed for the inauguration of Jovenel Moise to take place on February 7 at the National Palace.

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, is a regular contributor to the opinion section of Caribbean News Now.  He can be reached at
The dauphin chosen by President Michel Martelly as the 58th president of Haiti was contested for irregularities and fraud by the other candidates. A new electoral council was created for a subsequent balloting; hurricane Mathew upset the plan and finally in an election where only 20% of the electorate participated, the people of Haiti chose Jovenel Moise with 55% of the votes collected over the other 28 candidates. In the spirit of full disclosure I must inform I was one of the candidates albeit I officially informed the Electoral Council that I had withdrawn my candidature.

The challenges for the new president are enormous. Haiti is, to put it simply, at its knees. Environmentally it is a disaster, with each major rain turning into an avalanche, the periodic summer hurricanes that cause insignificant trouble in the other islands of the Caribbean turn into losses in the billions of dollars for an Haiti that is already an impoverished country. Chibly Cardinal Langlois, who presided to the religious part of the inauguration, urged the president to build a green Haiti that cares for its environment with its mountains filled with trees.

I have demonstrated in last week’s essay how Haiti has a 60-year deficit in growth and in development, its rural world that comprises 60% of the population lives in a clear desolation where the state institutions and the infrastructure do not exist. It has a population of 60% under the age of 25 years old with a school system so inadequate that 90% of the educational process is provided by private schools with dubious quality, with the exception of the religious ones, in particular the Catholic education system.

Corruption, vain expenses, outlandish living by government officials including the Parliament and the Executive absorb much of the state budget that little is left for infrastructure building that would empower the citizens to unleash their creative endeavors to produce wealth for themselves and for the state.

The president will have to demonstrate quickly his acumen in his choice of his prime minister and his ministers and his determination to turn things around for Haiti, which is literally in a state of coma. President Michel Martelly was supposed to be an outsider avenger who stopped the custom of more things change more they remain the same. It has not been. The millions of men and women with minuscule stock of merchandise keep pruning the streets in quest of a customer. They are doing so to remain alive, psychologically defying the odds that misery breeds despair.

President Jovenel Moise
President Jovenel Moise’s inaugural speech set the tone: with humility he embellished the historical legacy of the ancestors. Indeed the last time Haiti, dubbed the Pearl of the Islands, was embellished was 200 years ago under the governments of Toussaint Louverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines and Henry Christophe. They practiced the concept of what is called today state capitalism to rebuild the devastated economy due to the struggle for independence.

Haiti then had 500,000 people. It has today ten million citizens, the majority as poor as those ancestors who just came from slavery.

President Moise has won his candidature with the slogan that he will marry the energy of the people, with the sun, the water and the air to unleash their spirit for growth and development. He will need more than that. The PetroCaribe fund, which was the golden goose dissipated by the previous governments, has not been invested in sustainable projects that would revert to compounded profits. The educational fund fed by a small fee on transfers from and to Haiti has not been legally transmitted into the Haitian budget causing opacity leading to corruption and duplicated and ineffective school districts.

The future for Haiti is challenging. It can go both ways. There is an opposition that is denying the president the ordinary 100 days of honeymoon period. There is a court proceeding still in process where the state, as well as civilian parties, wants a clear determination from the judicial system on a report from the good governance unit on comingling of funds attributed to the President Business ventures.

Haiti cannot wait, Jovenel Moise has understood the urgency of the moment, he said in his inaugural speech that he wakes up early and sleeps late busy ruminating on how to inject some precious blood into the moribund Haiti. He might have to urge his ministers to follow his regime. The Dominican Republic is sending some 600,000 Haitian migrants back to Haiti for the year 2017.

President Donald Trump with his strict immigration policy may stop the open gate for would be migrants in search of a better life in the United States. There is a donor fatigue with Haiti that refuses to live within its means while wasting precious resources in decorative projects with low impact for its population.

Haiti and its government must finally reckon with itself to create the sentiment of appurtenance for the almost 90% of the population that is considered illegitimate children of the nation. They live in the rural part as well as the ghettoes of the cities under the indifferent care of the government. It must engage itself to build decent infrastructure and sane institutions that go beyond the capital and its suburban towns. It must without internal fight accept an affirmative program of rehabilitation towards those who have been left behind. It must last and not least re-engage in its emancipatory mission of light on the hill for itself, the rest of the Caribbean and for humanity.

It is an immense feat, May the Providence in his magnanimity that has chosen Haiti as the mage kings for Christ crib to tell the rest of the world that indeed we are all children of God, dark skin or white skin created at his image and destined for felicity on this earth and beyond!
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