Haiti: Reflections on Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant's General Policy Statement
In late March Haiti’s lower house of parliament confirmed Jack Guy Lafontant as prime minister. Later hat month, the Prime Minister appointed presented his General Policy Statement to the Senate.
Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies endorsed the policy statement of Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant after first ratifying his appointment as head of the new government.
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Additionally our member organization in Haiti, Commission Episcopale Nationale Justice et Paix d’Haiti, sent us some reflections. The following is an excerpt of the original document, translated in English. Find the original version here.
Reflections on Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant's General Policy Statement
In the introduction of his statement, the Prime Minister provides hope. Surely, this is a positive thing. He wants to reach a real reconciliation in the country. It is really necessary, the country deserves it. But can we take the Haitian people out of the abyss where they find themselves with a lot of promises? The hope and the reconciliation have to be built from real promises and projects and therefore that would insure an improvement of the population life.
The program planned in the statement is very broad which contains several topics...There is a great deal of good intentions but the question is how to achieve these goals. Everyone knows that everything can not be achieved at once: For example the announcement of several viaducts in the capital. In fact the Prime Minister highlights these problems: the country's resources are decreasing each year. Petrocaribe [an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment] does not exist anymore and it is turning into a new international debt.
The reaction of deputies and senators regarding the statement was limited to the advantages for their own areas instead of looking at the substance of the declaration and the interest of the republic. The ratification session in the parliament seemed more like a plot or a show where the people of the country and with problems were absent, they had no voice.
In fact many questions left unanswered, below some examples :
Up to now, the largest productive sector of the country is the farming sector. Reaching 20% of GDP, it possesses no more than 1% of bank credits (page 10 of statement). Although the Government provides a considerable amount to the ministry of agriculture, the peasant sector has no possibility to take the advantage of this deposit. Most of farming schools do not success anymore and then peasants work without government help. The statement specifies that we wish to realize food selfsufficiency progressively (page12) But what is the agricultural model of the Prime Minister ? The statement mentions the industrial farming or agrobusiness credits and also refers to the investment farming poles without detail. But the statement does not talk about the support regarding the peasant sector and the family farming. […]
The statement mentions the security for the owners (only for people with documents). It does not say how the state will ensure the security of the occupation of those who work the land, keeping in mind the multiple regimes that exist in this matter. If those who work the land feel protected, they will feel safe to produce and invest. Everyone is aware that conflicts regarding land can be the cause of several problems at any moment particularly during a political change in the country… The country is currently in this situation. The constitution of the country proposes another approach in art. 247, when it demands land reform and protection for those who work the land.
The education is extremely important for many reasons. As a matter of fact, more than 7 million people attend schools (page 28 of statement) that means that 50% of Haitian population are members of the school system. The education is really a basic right and also the national and foreign languages are necessary to communicate. However, it is better for the pupil to get an education with his mother tongue. Therefore the teachers have to share the knowledge only in the language understood by pupils. The language education in the policy is not really clear in the statement. The CRAN hopes that the Haitian Creole Academy will be able to make a valid contribution, as mentioned by the PM (see page 30). Much remains to be clarified in the field of education: What is the citizen that the country needs? Then, when exactly the school could be a real aim for young people ?
The declaration uses the expression "social rights" (title on page 24). Each person has rights in the social field. Unfortunately, the approach remains vague, because programs such as Ede Pèp (which may be necessary for certain categories of the population) illustrate an assistiveist approach (see page 24). Democracy is impossible without satisfaction of social rights. Working for families to take care of themselves with dignity is a democratic requirement. Good health care, good health care for all must be a priority, because health care is currently unpayable for the poor. But how to organize all this when the majority of the population has no professional work? Professional work is needed; charity will not change the standard of peoples’ lives.
The main conclusions and recommendations are the following :
The CRAN would like the PM to publish a simplified edition of the declaration, a summary to inform the population directly of what awaits them under his government. Especially the peasants - like the entire population - must be informed about their future and the real priorities of the government.
The CRAN does not consider that the political declaration is in favor of the peasants. They are still the country's main economic force, without any serious supervision by the State; But they are too often regarded as those which would impede the development of the country. The government’s policy should clearly express its consideration for family farming in the country.
The CRAN does not want to deny what is positive in the declaration, because the country requires special attention for ecology, reforestation and the energy issue. Infrastructure, such as roads and schools are necessities. The CRAN wants national dialogue and dialogue between sectors to help create greater awareness of the reality of the country and trigger a willingness to move the country forward for the benefit of all citizens (see pages 4 and 18).
At the beginning of the note, CRAN noticed that there are no information regarding the origin of the resources to achieve what is written in the statement. A fair taxation system is necessary. The statement implies that the gap between rich and poor is too great; There is too much social exclusion in the country. We must work for an inclusive society as advocated by the 1987 Constitution (see page 25).
For the CRAN, the fundamental question remains. How will the Prime Minister convince the politicians and administrations to concentrate only in the policy field ? A real development policy and improvement for the country can be born if the executives forget their own interests.