Haiti prime minister resigns after mass protests over hike in fuel price; govt calls off plan as four killed in violence
Haiti Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant has resigned following deadly violence and looting sparked by a now-abandoned plan to raise fuel prices
Port-au-Prince: Embattled Haiti Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant has resigned following deadly violence and looting sparked by a now-abandoned plan to raise fuel prices.
"I submitted my resignation to the president of the republic, who has accepted my resignation," Lafontant said in the lower house of Haiti's legislature on Saturday.
Lafontant would face a potential vote of no confidence had he not resigned.
Last week, the government in the impoverished Caribbean country announced plans for major fuel price hikes - 38 percent for gasoline, 47 pecent for diesel and 51 percent for kerosene.
The announcement sparked mass protests, with streets in the capital Port-au-Prince and other cities blocked with barricades of debris and burning tires.
Dozens of shops were looted and burned and cars were set ablaze.
At least four people were killed. The government quickly did an about-face and called off the planned price increases.
Lafontant, a physician who had little political experience before taking office in February 2017, had faced widespread criticism even before the spasm of violence.
Haiti is desperately poor, around 60 percent of its people live on less than two dollars a day, and they are extremely sensitive to even minor increases in prices of just about anything.
In February, Haiti signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Washington-based global crisis lender, in which the country committed to carrying out economic and structural reforms to promote growth.
One of those conditions was the elimination of petroleum product subsidies, prompting the doomed price hike proposal.
The accord also called on the government to keep inflation under 10 percent. Since 2015, inflation has been running at 13 to 14 percent annually.
The budget blueprint submitted to the legislature in late June still foresaw a rate of 13.6 percent.
On Thursday, the IMF suggested "a more gradual approach" to ending fuel subsidies, paired with "compensatory and mitigating measures to protect the most vulnerable people."
"We will continue to support Haiti... as they develop a revised reform strategy," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said, noting that ending subsidies would free up funds for other programs like education.
Crafting a revised strategy and divvying up Haiti's meagre budget resources will be a delicate task.
The decision to scrap the price hikes means the government will have to find another way to come up with the $300 million the move would have generated.
It is not an insignificant amount - the total is more than 11 percent of the 2018-2019 budget presented to parliament in June for debate.
Now, the government of President Jovenel Moise has to find a way to appease all sides - angry and impatient consumers, politicians with varying interests and IMF economists.
Haiti's deep levels of inequality are often cited by protesters who want to see not just Lafontant but Moise out of office.
More than 200 years after gaining independence from France, Haiti is still ranked by the World Bank as having one of earth's most unjust societies.
IMF projects impressive 11.5% growth rate for India in 2021, says economic activities revitalised 'quite significantly'
This makes India the only major world economy projected to register double-digit growth in 2021. As per the IMF, the next closest nations are China (8.1 percent), Spain (5.9 percent) and France (5.5 percent)
Union Budget 2021: Favour extension of pandemic support measures, thrust on infra investment, says IMF
IMF’s chief economist Gita Gopinath said more public infrastructure spending is needed and that the Government of India has expressed its intention to do so
Janet Yellen, Biden's nominee to be treasury secretary, told the Senate Finance Committee that the incoming administration would lay out a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal