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In addition to the US, the European Union and Canada, the United Kingdom is also imposing sanctions to neutralize forces that are sowing discord and security concerns in the country. The UK ratified the UN Resolution 2653 (2022) designed to target criminal actors, gangs, and their financiers whose actions continue to cause instability in the country. The sanctions, ratified on December 7, accompany the UN version effective on December 28, 2022, impose restrictive measures that consist of freezing assets of designated individuals and prohibitions on making funds or economic resources available; trade sanctions that include restrictions on trade in military goods and technology; and travel restrictions on those targeted by the sanctions. The UK’s action follows the EU’s restrictions against gang leaders and their financiers adopted on November 28 and prescribe powers for the provision and sharing of information to help ensure enforcement of the sanctions. The resolution also grants powers to certain specified maritime enforcement officers to stop and search vessels in international and foreign waters to make sure no laws are being broken and when if illegality is found, specified trade sanctions and seizing of goods on board vessels are to be executed. So far only the gang leader, Jimmy Cherizier, alias “Barbeque” has been designated as targeted for financial and travel restrictions.

Elsewhere, this past Friday marked the International Anti-Corruption Day, and it was an occasion for leaders to gather to shed light upon the problems that corruption raised in the life of the development of the country. Prime Minister Ariel Henry, Leaders of public and private institutions, the diplomatic corps joined the anti-corruption organization, L’Unité de Lutte contre la Corruption (ULCC) at the Hotel Montana to commemorate the day. Speaking on the occasion, the leader of ULCC, Hans Jacques Ludwig Joseph called for swift legal action against those engaging in corruption, both the corrupters and the corrupted to put an end to the cycle of impunity that has long been the practice in the country. Mr. Joseph’s report on the preventive and repressive actions undertaken by the organization in the program year revealed that the ULCC was able to produce 35 requests in addition to 70 last year and calling for legal proceedings against people who have failed to declare their assets to the appropriate authorities. Denouncing the harmful impacts of corruption on Haitian society, Mr. Joseph continued to call on the justice department to proceed to act on the files ULCC submitted because accordingly, impunity should never be an option when it comes to legitimate contributions and levies to the state. The ULCC wants and expects judicial proceedings to echo their hard work.

The Minister of Economy and Finance Michel Patrick Boisvert, who also spoke at the event, congratulated the work and management of the ULCC, in sending a dozen investigative reports to the justice department for prosecution during the past fiscal year. Mr. Boisvert called for the public interest to transcend the individual interests. Because there can only be trust in public institutions and authorities if citizens are convinced that those in the positions of power are acting in the interest of the collective. For his part, Prime Minister Ariel Henry called on the justice department to do their job, affirming categorically that the government is more than ever determined to go after the corrupt to their last entrenchment and with all the rigor of the law.  According to the Prime Minister, Justice must act quickly against corrupters and their accomplices in the private sector, because the State needs resources to help our compatriots living in misery and in all kinds of difficulties. Justice must set an example in society so that future generations know that society cannot tolerate people who steal, or attempt to steal, money and state property.  Mr. Henri called on all citizens to denounce state employees accepting bribes and promised that his government will not relax in its fight against the enemies of the state who often use passive and active corruption as the ideal instrument to subvert the nation and jeopardize the stability so necessary for growth.

Meanwhile, economist Etzer Émile painted a bleak picture of the economic outlook of the country in the past year and what the future holds. Speaking on the radio station Magik9, the economist stated that the economic outlook for the coming year appears very bleak, because the Haitian economy is suffocated, dysfunctional with a forecast of less than 1.5% growth this year, a dismal record. Over the past forty years, this is the first time that the economy has been so unproductive with four consecutive years of economic recession, and negative growth which means there was no creation of wealth, jobs, and a considerable drop in investments and, above all, worsening living conditions of the population. According to the Haitian Institute of Statistics and Informatics, (IHSI), in its latest report, without major natural disasters in 2022, the agricultural sector recorded a performance of minus 5.6%, the tertiary sector recorded a performance of -0.3%, trade – 5.6%, restaurants and hotels -3.4%. Direct transfers have decreased by 5.7%, which represents US$3.64 billion compared to US$4 billion last year. Inflation in the last month of the fiscal year is 38.7%. Imports increased by 6.3% while exports increased by 15%. On the other hand, the country’s trade deficit remains very negative, around US$3.3 billion over the year.

Despite the poor performance of the economy, the telecommunications and financial sectors recorded a positive performance, 2.4% and 5.1% respectively. The financial sector grew by 13.6% and bank deposits by 14%. At the same time, net banking income increased by 18% from last year, the gross loan to total deposit ratio is 31%, showing that bank revenues are not really linked to the economy. More than half of the banks’ revenue comes from the sale of the US dollar and the purchase of central bank bonds. With the dollar being scarce due to all these negative factors, it’s clear that the environment for entrepreneurship is increasingly difficult. The public finance outlook is even more alarming with state revenue below 110billion gourdes (which represents between US$800 to 900m) while state expenditure is over 165billion gourdes, implying the widening of the budget deficit. The widening budget deficit clearly shows that the state is financially bankrupt. Also, while the net foreign exchange reserve of the BOH stands at US$142m, the bank continually reassures about the gross reserve. The only way out of such a dismal economic outlook is for the state to send out clear signals for its intentions to tackle the security situation in the country to create an environment conducive to investment, consumption, processing, and others. Meanwhile, business leaders in the private sector have written a press release in which they express their concerns about the crisis and announced that they’re burying the hatchet and call for agreement to end the crisis.

Finally, Christmas has been losing its momentum in the country for the past decade due to the rising insecurity and the extreme poverty in which a large part of the population lives. Thus, if for some, this era is still alive in its festive traditions, for others the spirit of Christmas has lost its folkloric connotation, and worse still, internal borders have prevented the regrouping of family units around a meal and the exchange of gifts outside the home. In the past, streets were decorated with holiday lights in neighborhoods, houses and shops in cities and provinces and the organization of Christmas markets. It is also an important period commercially, but all that seem a distant memory now, given the hellish conditions many Haitians are now living through.

Dela Harlley

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