Overcoming Haiti’s Development challengesThierry Mayard PaulMinister of InteriorRepublic of HaitiPresentation to Students and faculty of Latin America and the CaribbeanFlorida International UniversityFebruary 16, 2012.
Introduction• I want to thank the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University and Professor Gamarra’s students for allowing me to share some thoughts and ideas about Haiti with you.• I also bring to you and to the University the warm greetings of President Martelly. You might be interested to know that his son is a proud and recent graduate of FIU.• My objective today, in the short time we have together, is to tell you a bit about the challenges we face and how the government in which I am privileged to serve is attempting to address them.
Introduction• In speaking to your professor, he shared with me that you are studying South American democracies and that you have spent considerable time examining how young democracies have addressed the multiple problems of development and governance.• As you are all aware the process there was and in some cases continues to be difficult and complex.• The challenges they face include overcoming historical legacies, weak institutional settings, and even vulnerabilities to natural disasters.• In your excursion through the region, you are learning the lessons – both good and bad—of how young democracies addressed these challenges. We too are doing our own exploration of the region and learning from our neighbors.
Introduction• We have been very fortunate that current and former heads of state such as President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, and former President Bill Clinton among others have generously shared their insights with us and they have, of course, also been extraordinarily generous in providing much needed assistance.• Our exploration of lessons is part of the reason why I am here with you today. And, I hope that our conversation this afternoon can yield some insights that I might take back to Haiti and put into practice. Following my remarks I hope we can engage in a dialogue that helps me learn additional lessons that will help us build a stronger and more democratic Haiti.
The Challenges We Face• In Haiti, as you may all know, the challenges are numerous and profound.• Perhaps our challenges are even more serious than those of our South American neighbors. Many of you are aware of our complex history.• We were the first nation in this hemisphere to achieve independence after the United States and today we struggle with some of the very same complex nation and state building dilemmas that our forefathers attempted to resolve.
The Challenges We Face• When President Michel Martelly assumed office last spring, he received a country that had barely begun to address the huge problems associated with the earthquake.• He also inherited a political system where the traditional political parties and politicians were no longer trusted and respected.• Our people were looking for a new type of political leadership that would bring forward new ideas and proposals to address the same unsolved problems that Haiti faced.• President Martelly offered hope above all. This sense of hope reflected both a desire for a new type of political leadership and the fact that our electoral platform offered proposals that made a majority of Haitians believe that positive change –even amidst the devastation of the earthquake—was possible.
The Challenges We Face• Our platform offered among other things: • to accelerate the process of reconstruction and recovery from the earthquake; • to decentralize Haiti as a way to strengthen local government and thus bring decision making closer to the people; • to create jobs throughout Haiti and not just in the capital city; • to provide free education to all Haitian children; • and, to reestablish Haitian sovereignty by assuming the tasks of public and national security.
The Challenges We Face• Among other important ideas on our platform, these captured the imagination and the hope of the average Haitian who voted massively for President Martelly.• As newcomers to political office we were certain of one thing: • We had the obligation to deliver on as many of the promises we had made during the campaign because this was the only way to restore the credibility of our political institutions and leaders.
The Challenges We Face• Although President Martelly won the second round of the election by a landslide margin of 68% to 32% and had a huge popular mandate to govern, he faced an opposition controlled parliament that refused to elect a Prime Minister and which also blocked several of our government’s public policy initiatives.• This was the reality we faced. This could have been also the perfect excuse to do nothing and to simply let time pass without addressing the great aspirations of the Haitian people.• We could have also forgotten about our policy proposals that gave President Martelly the landslide margin of victory.• We chose instead to pursue our platform and to deliver on the promises we made to all Haitians. At the same time we were able to select a Prime Minister and gradually and significantly improved the government’s relations with Parliament.
1. Accelerating the process ofreconstruction after the earthquake • As you are all aware, the January 12, 2010 earthquake devastated my country killing hundreds of thousands of my compatriots, destroying our infrastructure and setting back our development process. • At the same time, the earthquake changed us forever and gave us the opportunity to rebuild a better Haiti, one filled not only with stronger buildings but with the hope that we will do things better. • I believe we are doing things better as is evidenced by the large numbers of people who have been into more permanent homes in the past few months. • Twenty five months after the earthquake we have turned the corner and we can proudly say that the rubble is gone, the tents are few, and the rebuilding process is visible and palpable.
2. Decentralizing Haiti• President Martelly’s vision has been to decentralize Haiti as a way to achieve job creation throughout Haiti. My task as Minister of Interior over the past six months has been to make this a reality.• We are developing a plan to enable Haitians in our 10 departments to exercise their rights citizens and to be able to more efficiently deliver of state services such as health, sanitation, education, public safety and disaster preparedness.• We expect our plan to lay the foundation for the long term sustainable development of communities throughout Haiti.
3. Building a State and Establishing National Sovereignty• Over the course of the past two decades, Haiti has not had a functioning police and armed force. The earthquake made us realize that we need to assume the tasks of public safety and national security, two basic and sovereign functions of any nation state.• In Haiti, this is a very significant challenge and one that President Martelly has decided to address because it was one of the most important demands from Haitian citizens during our campaign.• These are tasks that we do not take lightly; we are convinced that we can build a new Haitian security force that is committed to democratic governance including fundamental respect for human rights and civilian control.
4. Restoring the International Credibility of Haiti• Since President Martelly assumed office in mid 2011, we have sought to restore the international credibility of Haiti.• We were fortunate to count on the enormous support of the international community to help us in the aftermath of the earthquake.• To move from recovery to reconstruction, Haiti must be a place that attracts not just international good will and charity but also serious foreign investment to help us create jobs, promote long term growth, and to address the problems of poverty and inequality.• Our task today is to assure foreign investors that Haiti is “open for business” and that we have a competent government in place that is able to provide a safe environment for long term investment.
5. Completing the transition to a democratic regime• Our transition to democracy began in the mid 1980s, around the same time that most of the countries you are studying decided to abandon military authoritarian regimes and opt for civilian, democratically elected governments.• Most of you are aware that our experience over the last three decades has been filled with serious problems that led even to two international interventions.• Far from building democratic institutions, the few we had faltered and our young democracy and its leaders failed to build institutions that addressed the ever growing demands of Haitian citizens.
4. Completing the transition to a democratic regime• Your professor has spoken to you about the Democratic Deficit, the gap between what people want from our democracy and the ability of our government and its institutions to deliver on its promises.• We believe that this is the first time –perhaps in the history of Haiti– that a government can close this gap and bring long term democratic governance to our people.• We will do so only through building institutions that are strong enough to help us deliver good public policies and basic services to our citizens.