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Haiti’s newsreel : from bad to worst

Interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry held his first ever cabinet meeting last week, one week after swearing
in the first cabinet since he assumed the premiership after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
The cabinet was formed as a result of consultations with various political sectors of the country following
the September 11 consensus agreement. At the core of current topics of discussion are the impending
price increase on petroleum products, new government appointees, and social welfare programs to help
allay the economic and social burden the people are enduring especially during the coming holidays.
Sources close to the meeting confirmed that the administration debated at length on the possibility of
higher prices at the pump announcing on Tuesday the price increase will take place as of Friday
December 10. The Minister of Economy and Finance is said to be in talks with the oil companies,
distributors, and other unions in the sector to find the right balance on the decision taken. As for
appeasing or lessening the suffering of people during the holidays, the government is expected to
encourage and provide neighborhood entertainment programs, improve sanitation, and engage in other
yuletide activities. The cabinet meeting also provided an opportunity for the Prime Minister to name three
new cabinet secretaries and three managing directors to the public service sector, but their names have not
been made public pending the official announcement in the government sponsored gazette. This cabinet
meeting marks the official start of the Ariel Henry administration.
Looming just behind the cabinet meeting is the increasing inflation that is gripping world economies in
general and the Haitian economy in particular. October recorded one of the highest monthly price
increases in recent years, 4.6%, and an annual rate of 19.7%. The US economy on which the Haitian
economy depends has recorded an annual rate of 6.2% in September 2021, up from 5.4% a year earlier,
the highest recorded since 1990. As a result, imported goods into the country from the US have reflected
an inflationary increase as well, based on the volatile the consumer price index in October. The general
level of the CPI which stood at 180.4 in September 2021 (in 2018 dollars) rose to 188.7 in October, a 4.6
increase in one month. The annual inflation stood at 19.7% in October, up from 13.1% the previous
month. The accelerated increase in the year-on-year inflation is partly explained by the pronounced
increase in price of imported consumer goods, which accounts for 26.1% of all goods and services,
according to data published by the Haitian Institute of Statistics and Informatics (l’Institut haïtien de
statistique et d’informatique (IHSI) in their monthly column entitled Le coin de l’IPC. The price of
basic foodstuff has gone up by 34.6% or 43.6% for rice and cooking oil respectively.
Meanwhile, most unions, both private and public are calling for an increase in the minimum wage to
offset the increasing economic hardship and the overall general malaise in the country. In a statement
made public by the groups, the unions argue that there has not been an increase in the minimum wage in
over two years, a clear violation of article 137 of the Labor code which stipulated a review and
adjustment of the minimum wage anytime inflation goes above 10 percent, while in the last two years
inflation reached more than 30%. The minimum wage currently in place varies between 250.00 to 550.00
gourdes, while the minimum wage for workers in the industrial park is set at 500.00 gourdes in 2019, up
from 420.00 gourdes in 2018. The unions criticized the dysfunction of the state institutions including the
Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MAST) which seem indifferent to the plight of workers. The
unions also took a swipe at the private sector which it accuses of being complicit in the deteriorating
condition in the country, as they take advantage of the socio-economic problem facing the nation to
violate union laws, in particular the collective bargaining rights and the freedom of association. Many
workers are subjected to poor working conditions, are arbitrarily suspended, and dismissed, with
impunity. The unions are urgently calling on the authorities to impress upon employers to adjust the
minimum wage, and for the government to undertake a general inspection of the workforce to enforce
labor laws where there are cases of abuse and to ensure the effective and efficient running of the state
social security organizations such as the Board of Directors of the social security entity, (CAOSS) and the
Wages Board. (Conseil d’administration des organes de sécurité sociale (CAOSS) and the Conseil
supérieur des salaires).

Elsewhere, the security concerns in Martissant are far from subdued, six months after gangs from Grand-
Ravine, Village-de-Dieu and Tibwa decided to declare war on each other and in the process declared
war on the entire population, especially in Martissant and Fontamara which have effectively become war
zones. As if to celebrate their 6 th month of running the streets with impunity, the gangs decided in a
spectacular way to make their presence known, by attacking a bus full of passengers on its way to
Carrefour. Brandishing automatic weapons, four men opened fire on a bus transporting 38 passengers,
hitting one lady in the head, mortally wounding her and injuring 12 others who have also received
gunshot wounds and are in serious condition. An eyewitness described the scene as carnage as victims
were shot multiple times and different parts of their bodies riddled with bullets. Martissant has become an
open-air cemetery, with dogs and pigs devouring corpse left on the streets to rot, in this war between
gangs for control of the area which is not too far from the national place and legislature. While the
national police were able to prevent armed groups from occupying the sub-police station in the area, they
were never able to control the neighboring area as they did before June 1. On the main road in Martissant
and Fontamara armed individuals are no longer hiding. They strut the streets peacefully, armed to the
teeth, with no one to question or stop them. Health facilities have abandoned the area to safer places,
victims of this current massacre are unable to receive adequate care. Even such humanitarian
organizations as the MSF have since left the area. According to Dr Jean-Robert Régis, who heads the
Bizoton hospital in Carrefour, most doctors are not able to come to work, and the hospital is in
need of oxygen and drugs, while the ambulances refuse to transport the sick if it means they have
to pass through Martissant. The Doctor does not see any solution to what is become clearly a
catastrophic situation. Even residents who have been internally displaced from their Martissant
neighborhood to the sports center in Carrefour are crying out because they feel they are being
treated as animals, given the putrid environment in which they live.
Finally, three more of the 17 Americans and Canadian kidnapped on Saturday, October 16, 2021,
were released, according to a communique from the US Based Christian Aid Ministries on their
website. This brings the number of the missionaries released to 5. They were kidnapped by the
gang known as 400 Mawozo. The organization would not release the name or identity of those
released, stating only that they are in safe and well, and in good humor.
Dela Harlley

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