By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor
PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti — Less than a week after the violent protests last week in the Haitian capital caused the government to reverse its plans on removing a 2010 fuel price subsidy, Haitian prime minister, Jack Guy Lafontant, during a speech to Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies on Saturday, resigned before a vote of no confidence could be taken against him and his 18-member Cabinet.
Haitian president, Jovenel Moise, has accepted Lafontant’s resignation and via Twitter thanked him and his cabinet for the services to Haiti during their tenure.
Moise also said on Saturday in a televised national address on his acceptance of Lafontant’s resignation, “Violence does not walk hand in hand with development and democracy. I understand the situation of a lot of compatriots that unemployment, hunger and misery are killing them. We are working for them.”
“We must end all these bad practices that keep Haiti moving backwards,” he said.
“I will continue to hold consultations with all institutions: Parliament, political parties and organizations throughout all sectors of society so that I can appoint a prime minister to conduct the affairs of the government,” Moise added.
Lafontant, a medical doctor, having obtained his degree from the University of Haiti, was appointed prime minister of Haiti in March 2017. From all reports, serving as prime minister was his first stint as a public servant and/or politician.
No word yet on Lafontant’s successor, who is to be selected by Moise and then given a vote of confidence by the Chamber of Deputies.
The removal of the fuel price subsidy, which was set to take effect on July 1 after months of consultations and advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which pressed for its removal, was quickly reversed after three days or riots and protests shook Haiti last week, when citizens took to the streets in some of the more upper scale and affluent areas, where they broke into businesses, destroyed cars, blocked roads with burning tires and debris and caused massive damage to property.
Prices in gas and other fuel related products were set to increase by some 38 percent for gasoline, 47 percent for diesel and 51 percent for kerosene.
The IMF and World Bank insists that the fuel price subsidy is too costly, with some estimates that it costs the Haitian government more as a percentage of gross domestic product than it spends on healthcare annually, with the IMF still insisting on the removal of the subsidy in order for Haiti to see significant economic and fiscal results that they feel are being hampered by the subsidy.
The IMF has also made available a US$96 million facility to Haiti if and when the fuel subsidy is removed, to further assist with the reconstruction and redevelopment of Haiti still feeling the effects and damages of the 2010 earthquake and the 2016 Hurricane Matthew.
In light of the lack of national support for the removal of this fuel price subsidy and after the riots and protests subsided, the IMF suggested last week that, instead of a massive price increase shock by the removal entirely of the fuel subsidy, “a more gradual approach” should be taken, with a full removal of the subsidies, possibly netting the Haitian government some $300 million upon full removal.
by Youri Aramin Kemp, Caribbean News Now(Bahamas)
July 15, 2018