Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Education and Jobs A Priority Says Haiti’s President

South Florida Caribbean News

Without the assistance of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) even with its limited financial resources, and the resources of the international community, Haiti would not be able to recover from the catastrophic earthquake that hit the country earlier this year, H.E Rene Preval, President of Haiti said Friday.
Haiti has been one of the major items on the agenda of the Twenty-First Intersessional Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government in Roseau, Dominica with discussions having been conducted with the World Bank on Thursday and with the Organisation of American States and the Inter American Development Bank on Friday. President Preval joined his colleague Heads of Government around the table on Friday morning.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, President Preval said that CARICOM was trying to assist his country to access from the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) $350M in budgetary support for the rest of the fiscal year.

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake, whose epicentre was about 10 miles from the capital Port-au-Prince, claimed more than 300 000 lives and left more than a million homeless.

The President said that Haiti’s diminished revenue base was one of its major problems. The revenue base had reduced by 80 per cent. The remaining 20 per cent would only allow for the payment of 50 per cent of the country’s public servants.

He said that the country was now focused on rethinking and reconstructing Haiti, making the capital “more open”, building larger roads and ensuring the infrastructure was on place to develop the provinces.

President Preval acknowledged that Haiti had concentrated its energies on the capital and had neglected its provinces and its agriculture sector. Since jobs were not at their disposal, the people in the provinces cut down the trees, he recounted. The earthquake has also thrown the spotlight on the environmental problems of the country including deforestation.

“I see how Dominica is a country with a lot of trees; please, do not cut the trees… Be careful,” he warned

His government, he said, had to create jobs, and ensure there was health care and education “everywhere where Haitians live so that they don’t feel the need to migrate to the capital.”

Education, he said, was an investment for life, but in Haiti, though its constitution provided for free education, it was very expensive. The State had the capacity to run just 20 per cent of the schools while 80 per cent was privately-owned. Most of the schools in Port-au-Prince were destroyed in the earthquake.

The reconstruction of the country would provide an opportunity to decentralize education, President Preval said, so that the State would be in a better position to provide education to the children of Haiti.

Switching easily among French, English and Kweyol, President Preval said he was “happy” to be in Dominica and also expressed gratitude to the Government of Dominica for accepting Haitian nationals who number about 1000. He expressed condolences to those who lost loved ones in the earthquake.

During the two-day Intersessional Meeting, the Conference of Heads considered the Community’s response and continued engagement in Haiti. CARICOM’s primary focus is now on health with the Community’s Mission stationed in Leogane, a community on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

The Community’s emergency response was led by Jamaica which is the sub-regional focal point of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Member States also have responded tangibly to Haiti’s plight with monetary contributions and tons of relief supplies and conducted relief supply operations.

The Hon. P.J. Patterson, former Prime Minister of Jamaica who is currently CARICOM’s special representative in Haiti and who met with Preval on Thursday night, would be kept abreast of all the discussions internationally on the Haiti catastrophe, President Preval said.

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