Originally: Haitian Prime Minister Discusses Development Goals, Security
Story appearing on U.N. Newswire
WASHINGTON: Interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue yesterday
outlined specific ways the international community could help promote
private investment in his country and also expressed confidence the new
U.N. peacekeeping force would improve security.
Latortue, who took over after the Feb. 29 ouster of President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, accused the former president of corruption and
mismanagement that had left Haitians without adequate energy and
“Could you imagine, after more than fifty years of international
cooperation with the World Bank and other international financial
organizations, we still have one or two hours of electricity a day,”
Latortue told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International
The prime minister, who previously worked for the U.N. Industrial
Development Organization and the U.N. Development Program, said the lack
of electricity, as well as roads, ports and other means of
communication, were the major stumbling blocks to development.
He pledged to use assistance first to boost the country’s electricity
supply and to build three thousand kilometers of roads in the country.
“If we have electricity, we have roads–imagine, the private sector
could create enterprises,” he said, urging Haitians living in the
diaspora to invest in the country. An estimated 1.5 million Haitians
live abroad, compared with 8.2 million in Haiti.
He also warned that investment was necessary to help Haiti move beyond
the cycle of bust and assistance, followed by donor fatigue and bust
again, that has led the United Nations to send five peacekeeping
missions to the Caribbean state in a decade. “If they do not think to
make for a sustainable development, they will have to come back every
five years, doing the same,” he said.
Latortue acknowledged, meanwhile, that efforts to develop the country
would falter without improved security. Aristide was toppled in a
violent coup in February by rebel factions that remain armed.
Yet the prime minister said most of the instability was due not to the
ex-rebels, whom he said were only about five-hundred-strong, but to
pro-Aristide gangs numbering up to fifteen thousand. Both sides have said they
will give up their weapons if the other does the same but the U.S.-led
multinational force, which arrived in March, has only collected about
200 weapons to date.
Latortue said the multinational force had been hampered by its narrow
mandate and the reluctance of troop-contributing nations to become
embroiled in combat. “The Americans were not willing to go and try to
disarm those gangs,” he said, whereas the mandate of the U.N.
peacekeepers gives them more latitude.
The U.N. force, which arrived June 1 and will number 8,000, is
authorized under Resolution 1542 to dissolve the gangs.
“Now, I believe the situation will change,” said Latortue.