Continuing protests in Haiti threaten to destabilise country

Haiti’s Prime Minister, Jean-Henry Céant, has promised an emergency programme to create 50,000 temporary jobs in an attempt to end days of violence, a general strike and protests that threaten to destabilise the country and bring down the government.

Speaking on radio on 26 November, Céant said that the violent demonstrations in which at least 11 people have died would not bring about a transitional government or the resignation of the President as demanded by protestors. Such ideas, he said, were not viable solutions to get the country out of the crisis.

Proposing a dialogue between all sectors in national life leading to a political pact, he said that that the population was exhausted by the violence and the paralysis of the economy. “A country cannot move in disorder, in violence” he said.

In his remarks, the Prime Minister made clear that the “the mandate of the President of the Republic, Jovenel Moïse, will not be on the table as part of the dialogue that the Government intends to initiate with the opposition”.  He did however concede the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle if it would establish a better basis for dialogue and restore stability.

Although Céant said that contact had been made with some members of the leaders of the protest movement, Haitian reports suggest that the idea of dialogue has been rejected informally by leading members of the radical opposition.

Haiti has seen large-scale protests since 18 November when tens of thousands of mainly young people took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse. The protests began following a Senate reports that money for social projects under the county’s concessional oil programme with Venezuela had been misappropriated. However, allegations of government corruption in relation to the country’s PetroCaribe arrangements, rapidly merged with deepening concern about increasing inflation and a devaluation in the national currency, which has hit already impoverished Haitians particularly hard.

In an attempt to placate the country’s young, Céant said the Government would create a programme of credits for young people. “We are going to help young people create businesses. There will be loans to create 1,000 small businesses a month, including 200 a month earmarked for young people, so they can create their own jobs,” Céant said.

However, Haiti’s Government has yet to present a budget to Parliament, even though its fiscal year began on 1 October.

Haiti’s economy is stagnant. In recent remarks the Prime Minister noted that from 1998 to 2018 the average growth in the economy was 1.3% per year while the average annual growth rate in the population was 1.8%.

Céant said that more inhabitants, fewer resources, and reduced domestic production was resulting in an increase in imports and pressure on the Gourde. He also noted that only 120,000 out of 11m inhabitants paid taxes, that the per capita gross domestic product at US$765 per annum was the lowest in the hemisphere, and that 80% of the Haitian population lived on less than US$2 a day.

Following the demonstrations and violence, the US Administration urged all parties in Haiti to hold a meaningful dialogue ‘to address points of disagreement and find lasting solutions without violence’. It has also ordered all its non-essential diplomats to leave the country.

 

This is a lead article from Caribbean Insight, The Caribbean Council’s flagship fortnightly publication. From The Bahamas to French Guiana, each edition consists of country-by-country analysis of the leading news stories of consequence, distilling business and political developments across the Caribbean into a single must-read publication. Please follow the links on the right-hand side of this page to subscribe, or access a free trial.

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