Haiti’s New Leader Faces Wary Bureaucrats, Troubled Economy With AM-Haiti-Prime Minister
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Haitiian Prime Minister Robert Malval, sworn in Monday, faces a suspicious bureaucracy with a history of corruption and an economy wracked by sanctions as he prepares to govern.
Haiti was freed Friday from a crippling oil embargo and other economic sanctions imposed to force military leaders to allow a return to democracy in the impoverished Caribbean country.
But economists and officials say that Malval won’t have an easy time restoring the country’s economy. He was installed in Washington as part of a U.N. plan to restore freely elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
″It would be illusory to believe the end of the embargo will put an end to the important economic problems of this country, since all of its resources - natural, material, human and financial - have been affected,″ Central Bank economist Kesner Pharel told Radio Metropole Monday.
″The necessary economic choices will not be easy to make.″
Malval’s incoming Cabinet is finding out that its predecessors spent freely as foreign aid was suspended, corporate tax receipts slumped and customs’ charges dwindled with a flood of contraband.
The military-backed regimes reversed internationally applauded austerity programs imposed by Aristide, who was overthrown in a 1991 military coup.
Since taking power, high-ranking army officers and bureaucrats have been accused of heavy involvement in contraband operations and of raking off money from state-run enterprises.
″There is corruption from the top of the ladder to the bottom,″ outgoing Commerce Minister Saidel Laine said earlier this year. The government is by far the biggest employer in Haiti, the Americas’ poorest nation.
Sociologist Herard Jadotte, an aide to the military-backed governments, said government workers could begin a sabotage campaign if Malval attempted a purge. Work slowdowns would also occur if Malval failed to stick to his pledge to ″reconcile the nation,″ Jadotte told The Associated Press.
Malval promised ″no witch-hunt″ of government workers but told Parliament last week that bureaucrats must prove their competence.
Haitians listened to reports of Monday’s ceremony, including a welcoming speech by Aristide, through broadcasts by the Voice of America’s Creole- language service and Radio Tropic F.M.
Aristide is to return home from U.S. exile on Oct. 30 under the U.N. peace plan.
Effects from a world oil embargo continued. Haitians awaited gasoline to be unloaded from a tanker docked offshore. Long lines of people waited for the few public transport vehicles running.
Hoarders are among the few Haitians who may be unhappy about the embargo’s end. The black market price for gasoline, once $6 a gallon, fell to $3 Sunday.
Long lines also snaked outside the government office of motor vehicle registry. Sunday was the deadline to get car license plates renewed.