By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate managing editor
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Amid Haiti’s ongoing political and economic crisis and a mere six months after the government of Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant was sworn into office, the lower chamber of deputies dismissed the newly formed government by a vote of 93 in favour, six against, while three abstained.
Lower Chamber President Gary Bodeau noted that neither Céant nor any of his cabinet ministers were present.
According to Céant, “The decision is illegal and was outside of the constitution. It is unacceptable” adding that “The justice [system] needs to shed light.”
Deputy Sinal Bertrand, one of the six who voted against the government’s objection, cited his vote was one of principle, adding that deputies were more “interested in their pockets” than doing the right thing.
Deputy Jean Marie Forestal introduced the no-confidence measure in the chamber, cited the country’s dismal economic situation and the ongoing tensions between President Jovenel Moïse and Céant as the reasons on why the government needed to go.
“Céant government is passive,” adding that “the socio-political situation of the country has been aggravated and is insupportable for the Haitian population; the unemployment, hunger, misery. Céant’s government has proven its incapacity to guarantee the security, peace on the streets, the serenity of Haitian families, and stability; conditions that are essential for investment and economic growth. With his government, the security [problems] and violence have taken all forms.”
Meanwhile, Céant and his cabinet are expected to remain in office albeit, in a lame duck capacity – to oversee the country’s day-to-day affairs, until a new prime minister is appointed by Moïse and a new government is appointed and approved by both chambers of parliament.
The new government, to be appointed by Moïse is his third since taking office in February 2017, follows the arrest and repatriation of five Americans for the possession of illegal weapons, amid Haiti’s violent street protests over rising food prices and increasing inflation.
Early this month, David Hale, the US Undersecretary for Political Affairs, visited Haiti and met with political leaders, the private sector and civil society, as a gesture of Washington’s interest to bring lasting solutions to the country’s economic and political battle crisis.
The fate of the Céant government has been a matter of widespread discussion amid allegations of, corruption, the lack of accountability and anti-corruption protesters violence throughout the country.
The government that does not have the autonomy to govern, and attract domestic and foreign investments, with a deteriorating currency, facing 15 percent annual inflation and has already accumulated a budget deficit of $89.6 million.
Moïse is under immense pressure to step down amid many violent street protests, political, economic and social instability in the county. He has so far resisted, indicating that he “will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers. The crisis we are going through is severe.”
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have expressed deep concern about the situation in Haiti and, following the inter-sessional summit in St Kitts and Nevis last month, “called upon all stakeholder to priorities dialog as a means to address peacefully and meaningfully all relevant issues and to create the conditions for lasting political stability essential to the sustainable economic and social development of Haiti.”
International assistance is hardly enough to solve Haiti’s deepening economic crisis, hitherto, conditional on financial measures including reducing budget deficits, recurrent expenditures and implementing social protection programs.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to provide Haiti with $229 million in loans at zero percent interest paid over three years. The European Union, inter-American Development Bank, and World Bank also agreed to provide an additional $60 million in assistance.
At a minimum, Haiti’s leaders must prioritize what is indeed in the best interest of citizens, and for the people to have confidence that their voices matter; becoming the first independent black republic in 1804 after expelling France and abolishing slavery.
Haiti’s struggle for democracy and economic freedom will require strengthening the country’s democratic institutions and ensuring that international aid helps, and does not hinder, the resilience of Haiti’s democracy, and /or looted by foreign occupiers.