By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said on Thursday that curbing corruption is key to fighting extreme poverty in Haiti where most people live on less than $2 per day, while a small group of people in the Caribbean country continue to enrich themselves though corrupt practices.
Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe
Lamothe said his government is banking on the fight against corruption as a poverty alleviation tool, to allow public institutions to have access to needed funds to invest in social and development programs likely to positively affect the lives of the most vulnerable.
"Corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to Haiti's social and economic development because it is keeping people in poverty," Lamothe told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN) on Thursday.
"So when we fight corruption as my government is committed to doing, we also fight extreme poverty because public funds will be used to lift people out of poverty instead of ending up in the pockets of a small corrupt group," said Lamothe.
The Haitian prime minister cited a series of unprecedented measures taken by his government to fight against corruption, such as the increase in the budget and logistical means for the anti-corruption unit, the promulgation of the first anti-corruption law ever passed in the country's 210 years of history and a significant number of indictments and arrests on corruption charges.
"We are fully aware of the difficulty of this fight that we want to fight because there are very powerful people who are benefiting from the corruption who will try everything in their power to resist and fight back," Lamothe told HCNN.
"But we are convinced that this is the right thing to do for the country and nothing will stop us," he added.
However, Lamothe called on judicial authorities and other relevant entities to fully assume their responsibility when it comes to prosecuting, trying and sentencing perpetrators of corruption crimes.
"The political will on the part of President (Michel) Martelly and myself is clear, but we need relevant judicial authorities to also have the will to go after those in the public administration and elsewhere who are involved with corruption," insisted Lamothe.
"And there should be no exception. Myself as prime minister I have opened my office to anti-corruption unit officials and President Martelly has done the same and we have instructed all those working with us to cooperate with anti-corruption investigators," explained Lamothe.
Martelly in May signed into law a bill that stiffens punitive measures against those involved with corruption, who now incur 3 to 15 years imprisonment compared to 1 to 3 years’ jail time before, while many deterrent penalties and public fund-recovering measures are set to be applied.