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The security concerns in the country have people on edge and hoping for a quick solution or a solution as soon as possible. It is this light this search for solutions that the Canadian Ambassador in Haiti, Sébastien Carrière, was forced to speak to the Haitian press to address rumors that Canada is blocking or putting more conditions on the purchase of armored vehicles for the national police, PNH. Speaking to Le Nouvelliste on Monday, the Ambassador denied any blockade or attempt by the Canadian government to interfere with the contract that Haiti has with a Canadian company to acquire armored personnel carriers for the country.  He stated bluntly that those fanning such rumors are not telling the truth because no one is interested in going after Haiti, but on the contrary, there are lots of people of goodwill who want to help the country. As such Haiti is not being treated any different than any other country. The Federal government is required to follow the law as it regards the export of such kinds of materials, and what is asked of the Haitian government is what is asked of any government that asks to import any material, as the Canadian government ensures that everything exported abroad as military and/or police equipment is well used. He said he did not see anything to indicate a delay in the process but rather, given the nature of the problem in Haiti, the Canadian government is trying their best to accommodate the request which could take 30 to 60 days. He assured those accusing the Canadian government that the armored vehicles have a role in the solving the problem of insecurity but they’re not the solution. By way of example, he stated that were the vehicles to be delivered today, they cannot solve the security problem in Martissant tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the gourde continues its freefall against the dollar daily, creating an economic situation where the poor are increasingly being squeezed. While the official exchange rate is at 114.74 gourdes to the dollar by the BRH, it’s in reality higher, between 130 and 140 gourdes to the dollar in certain areas on the black market. As a result of this, prices have increased on basic necessities in the markets as well as the supermarkets.  A year ago, July 31, 2021, the exchange rate was 93.6 gourdes to the dollar, an increase over a year that has not been compensated with increased income to offset any inflationary effects. Despite government efforts at adjusting the minimum wage, inflation has reduced the purchasing power of the gourde to nothing. Despite government increase of public sector workers wage, the increase is quickly wiped out by the increase in the price of goods and services. The situation is worst with private sector employees who have seen their wages depreciate with the cost of living as they have not received any salary adjustments or increases in years. Unfortunately, the private sector companies cite the socio-economic decline of the country which affects them disproportionately as the reason for their inability to function properly and subsequently pass it on to their employees. They blame the government for not creating the climate conducive for private sector businesses to function and thrive, even though they are the ones who pay the taxes. But whatever the explanation, one thing is clear, the people are suffering. In an address marking his first anniversary as the head of government, Prime Minster Ariel Henry did not tout the achievements of his government but rather let others do this for him, because to do so would require them to speak on the increasing fall of the gourde and the economic hardships that it imposes on the ordinary people. It is increasingly clear that though the government can cite the war in Ukraine, global inflation and other factors to explain the increasing cost of living in the country, they cannot explain the increasing black market for petroleum products and the corruption that is being normalized in the country. Though the global economic conditions have a bearing on the local economy, bad governance and corruption have a more pressing impact on the people. One doesn’t need to be an expert in economics to understand that we are not at the end of our troubles unless Prime Minister Ariel Henry decides to run the country differently. And speaking on the radio yesterday, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Michel Patrick Boisvert warned that the current situation is not conducive to increasing the price of petroleum products. Even though the petroleum product subsidy represents more than 9 billion gourdes per month, the subsidy absorbs this part of the budget, leaving no room for other state spending.

While on the topic of the economy, services at the national credit bank, Banque Nationale de Crédit were disrupted yesterday due to a technical glitch. In a statement put out by the bank, there were technical difficulties prompting them to close all their branches across the nation, while technicians are working hard to address the issue and bring the banks back online. 

Elsewhere, PM Ariel Henry expressed solidarity with relatives of those Haitians who lost their lives off the coast of Bahamas this past Sunday when the boat they were traveling in capsized at sea near the Atlantic archipelago, claiming 17 lives. He used the occasion to call for a national reconciliation to address the problems that force us to take to the seas in search of a better tomorrow. The Bahamian authorities were able to save 21 people who are currently with their immigration authorities. The Prime Minister also expressed his shock and sorrow when 11 Haitians lost their lives near the coast of Puerto Rico in May.

Be that as it may, the first anniversary of the current regime has not been marked by any remarkable projects or programs but the most revealing of all is that 14 of the 18 Ministers in the government are not known to the general public. Taking to the streets to gauge the sentiments of the public towards the government’s performance in the first year in office, most people approached by journalists on the streets expressed their dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister but more than that, the sentiment towards his ministers are even more disturbing. People interviewed felt that Ministers do not do any serious job and are just agents who enrich themselves at the expense of the state. The respondents concluded that the state still functions as it does without them, in effect saying they are not important. Besides the Ministers of Education, Nesmy Manigat, of Communication, Emmelie Prophète,  of Finance, Michel Patrick Boisvert and Commerce, Ricardin Saint-Jean who is fighting against illegal petroleum sales, none of the other Ministers are known to the general public. 

Finally, the UN Security Council has unanimously renewed the mission of the BINUH for another year while warning member states of the international body to stop sending arms to the gangs roaming threateningly in the country in recent years. The resolution which prohibits arms sale to the gangs and introduced by the US and Mexico failed to include the embargo on arms as proposed by China. The text calls on member states to prohibit the transfer of small arms and light weapons and ammunition to non-state actors engaged in or supporting gang violence, criminal activity or human rights violations in Haiti.

According to the resolution, the UN Security Council may impose individual sanctions (asset freezes, travel bans) against gang leaders within 90 days of the adoption of the resolution. The resolution further demands the immediate cessation of gang violence and criminal activity. But one proposal by China to ask the UN Secretary General to study ways in which Latin American countries can send a regional police force to support the Haitian security forces did not appear in the adopted text. The resolution is limited to asking the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, to study possible options with countries in the region to strengthen security in the country, with a report to be submitted next October 15th.

Dela Harlley

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