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article imageLapin confirmed as Haiti's new prime minister

By AFP     Apr 9, 2019 in Politics

Haiti's President Jovenel Moise on Tuesday confirmed Jean-Michel Lapin as the country's new prime minister, just weeks after the Chamber of Deputies censured his predecessor's six-month-old government.

The new administration that Lapin -- currently the acting prime minister - must assemble with Moise will face pressing problems such as the high cost of living and the insecurity that plagues the capital.

Haiti is still recovering from widespread riots in February, when thousands of people took to the streets across the country -- one of the world's poorest -- to demand better living conditions and the departure of the head of state.

For about 11 days, all activities ground to a halt in Port-au-Prince and across most of the Caribbean country's cities.

Lapin, the former culture and communications minister, was named acting prime minister on March 21, three days after the Chamber of Deputies voted to censure the government of former prime minister Jean-Henry Ceant.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted for Ceant's resignation, saying he had failed to improve conditions in the six months since he took over at the head of government.

Lapin is the third head of government under president Moise, who has led the Caribbean island nation since February 2017.

The announcement was made by Moise via Twitter, and will be formalized by presidential decree later in the day.

The installation of a new government is an International Monetary Fund pre-requisite for the disbursement of the first tranche of a $229 million loan to Haiti.

In 2018, Haiti racked up a record $290 million deficit, while its national budget, the lowest in the Caribbean region, amounts to $1.8 billion.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, with 60 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

Transparency International places the country at number 161 out of 180 in its corruption ranking.

Since the summer of 2018, a civic movement has mobilized to demand an accounting of the use of funds from Petrocaribe, a Venezuelan-financed aid program established in 2008.

Haiti's High Court of Auditors in January published a report detailing the mismanagement of the fund and the possible diversion of nearly $2 billion.

One top opposition leader, Andre Michel, said Lapin's appointment changes nothing.

"We want a total change of this system of socio-economic exclusion," he told AFP.

"Our demands remain the same: first, the resignation of the president of the republic; secondly, the completion of the Petrocaribe trial," Michel added.

His comments reflect the high degree of polarization in Haiti as it moves toward legislative elections in October, which will renew the Chamber of Deputies and a third of the Senate.

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