(AFP) — The Haitian senate Saturday approved the new government’s general polices, a necessary first step before it can begin functioning, two months after the last premier was forced to resign after attempting to impose unpopular austerity measures.
Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant, who has been head of government since early August, listened to the doubts expressed by the lawmakers angry at cabinet ministers suspected of tax evasion, before managing to obtain support of 21 of 28 senators.
With the senate’s approval secure, the new government now needs a vote of confidence from the chamber of Deputies, scheduled to meet later in the day.
Ceant, a notary who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2010 and 2016, was named to the post on August 5 by President Jovenel Moise is Jean-Henry Ceant — but in a sign of discord between the legislative and presidential branches it took a month to reach agreement on his 18-member cabinet. Before Ceant presented his general policy, senators meeting overnight Friday to Saturday discussed tax fraud suspicions that hang over some of the new cabinet ministers.
“If tonight here we vote in favor of people who do not pay their taxes, then we must accept that tomorrow, people will start refusing to pay their taxes,” said Senator Antonio Cheramy.
On September 6, the day after president Moise announced his new cabinet, several nominees dashed off to the country’s tax office to pay their back taxes — a rush that Senator Patrice Dumont derided as a “procession of shame.”
To be confirmed as a cabinet minister, candidates must show proof from the previous five years that all their taxes have been paid.
Tension remains high in Haiti after riots in July against rising fuel prices wreaked havoc in Port-au-Prince, forcing the prime minister at the time, Jack Guy Lafontant, to resign.
Deadly violence hit the Caribbean country in mass protests sparked when the government on July 6 announced major fuel price hikes — 38 per cent for gasoline, 47 per cent for diesel and 51 per cent for kerosene.