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On Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Henry met with heads of diplomatic missions, consular corps and representatives of international organizations in his official residence in Bourdon, for end of year greetings. The occasion is one on which, one by one, the diplomats greet the Prime Minister and present their best wishes for the holidays and for a happy new year 2023. Honoring this tradition along with members of his cabinet, the interim Prime Minister took stock of the crises the country has experienced in the past year and for several years now. The Prime Minister reaffirmed his request for international security assistance and desire to transfer power to elected officials. In his speech, Mr. Henry recalled how his previous wishes never materialized throughout the year and bemoan the fact that while he hoped that this current year coming to an end would have been better than the previous one, things didn’t turn out as he wished. In his words, he “hoped that the wisdom of my compatriots, their love for our common homeland, their understanding of the gravity of the social, economic and security situation, would have enabled the unfailing gathering of women and men of good will to present a united front against the adversities our country is going through. But alas, it is clear that if the sky has spared us natural disasters, the year that is ending has brought us its share of turbulence caused by men”. He added that he will not dwell on the subject nor to stun his guests with an inventory of cases of kidnapping, murders, road blockages preventing the free movement of people and goods, during a time of economic recession, galloping inflation and difficulties with daily living.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister indicated that there have been efforts made by his government to avoid the worst that some have hoped for the country. One of these efforts was setting aside of funds by the government for procuring equipment for the national police, in spite of the difficulties encountered during the delivery of such equipment that further hampered the capacity of the police to effectively deal with the security situation in the country. Speaking about the security situation, the PM mentioned his request for assistance from a specialized force to support the national police and used the opportunity to thank the UN Secretary-General for relaying his government’s request to the members of the Security Council, hoping that soon the multinational support force for the PNH can be at work. Mr. Henry further thanked the international community for taking the initiative to sanction those who support the armed gangs and feed illicit trafficking of money, drugs, and weapons. The active solidarity of friendly countries will go a long way to restore the security environment that will be essential and critical if we want to allow our political aspirants to elected office and civil society to campaign freely without having to fear for their lives or that of their friends, family, and partisans. He argued that for this because he feels there’s the will and the firm determination to make 2023 the year of elections which will allow for the reviving of our democratic institutions, getting them back on their feet and return the direction of the affairs of the country to elected officials who are freely chosen by the people within the framework of free, fair, transparent, and inclusive elections.

Meanwhile, December 16, 2023, marked 32 years since the historic election brought in the former vicar of t Saint Jean Bosco Church, Jean Bertrand Aristide to power, with his Fanmi Lavalas movement. It was a date that brought a lot of hope and expectation from a turbulent period following the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship. But it also marked the beginning of the end for a democratic experiment that came crashing on September 30, 1991, barely a year into his administration, during a period marked by injustice, excessive corruption, and the economic despair of many Haitians. Thirty years on, and with much the same socio-economic and political turmoil still in place, the leaders of Fanmi Lavalas are taking stock of the past 32 years, which they conclude has been dismal at best. In a public statement, the movement released their version of a route map to get the country out of its continuous crises. According to the Lavalas group, there needs to be a disruptive transition capable of creating a security climate conducive to the realization of democratic elections to elect leaders sensitive to the legitimate concerns of Haitians. The signatories to this statement are Dr Marise Narcisse, Joël Édouard Vorbe, Agr Anthony Dessources and Dr Myrto Julien.

In other news, the office of customs, l’Administration Générale des Douanes (AGD) has proposed new codes and regulations aimed at modernizing the agency and making it more practical and efficient. In a draft copy provided to the public, following discussions with the Haitian Industrial Association, l’Association des Industries d’Haïti (ADIH). Julcène Edouard, head of AGD stated that the draft new customs code came about during a meeting at the offices of the Customs Agency at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport which lasted for many hours, the various protagonists discussed at great length the advantages and disadvantages of this new code. The goal is that once adopted, the new code will replace the old code, in service since 1987, and now deemed unsuited to the new reality. The current customs code governing national and international trade in the country is practically obsolete in relation to the new requirements relating to customs procedures.

Finally, the government has granted financial assistance to 35 out of 37 factories, representing a total of 56,951 workers to help them defray the cost of living that went up as a result of the increase in price of petroleum products, through the social security agency, Fonds d’Assistance économique et sociale (FAES). The agency agreed that the aid came about as a memorandum of understanding between the Haitian industrial association, ADIH and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST) to help subcontractors cope with the increase in the price of petroleum products. The agreement will provide each worker an allowance of 6,800 gourdes for two months. Also, due to the lack of security and personal safety across the country, the school year has lost more than twenty days, forcing the Ministry of Education, MENFP, to come up with a new school calendar, which will list 142 school days starting from January through August 4, 2023. On Friday, December 16, 2022, the Minister of Education met with representatives of the teacher’s union and other education unions regarding the revised school calendar.

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