A new Prime Minister by a Presidential tweet

A new Prime Minister by a Presidential tweet


President Jovenel Moïse started the week by tweeting on Monday (March 2nd) the name of a new Prime Minister, after a full year with an interim one at the helms, while being doubled by another interim, nominated last July, but who was in limbo ever since. The newly nominated Prime Minister is Jouthe Joseph, who was an interim Minister of Finance and Economy since September 2019. That post was cumulative because he had been Minister of Environment in the interim cabinet of Prime Minister Jean-Michel Lapin, named in March 2019 to the post, after Jean-Henry Céant was toppled from the premiership by President Moïse in cahoots with the Lower Chamber of Parliament. In his tweet, President Moïse said: “After much consulting with different sectors in the country, I have chosen citizen Joute Joseph as the new Prime Minister. He’s called upon to quickly set up a broad government of consensus that will be able to meet the urgent needs we face.” To be noted, the president spells Joute for Jouthe. Isit an error or is he changing the first name of his Prime Minister designate?

It should be noted that this Prime Minister won’t have the approval of Parliament since the Lower House’s mandate expired on January 13 and the President arbitrarily dismissed nine senators, robbing them of two years of their mandate.

The social networks are rife with questions about this Joute/Jouthe Joseph. Most say he’s a new comer. But he was Minister of the Environment in the interim cabinet of Prime Minister Lapin. Moreover, on September 30, 2019, he was also named Minister of the Economy and Finance, one of the most important ministries. Apparently, President Moïse had been grooming him for the Prime Minister post. In December 2018, he had “joined a delegation” that went to Poland to attend a conference on the environment. Then, it was said that “he will participate in the event [December 3 to 14] at several high-level meetings.”

A year later, on December 7, 2019, he was headed to Madrid, Spain, “to join the Haitian delegation taking part in the 25th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) to the Framework Convention [of the] United Nations Climate Change.”

Both times, Joute/Jouthe Joseph was not leading the delegations, just “joining” them and showing him meeting top international personalities. In that way, when he’s finally named to head the government, he would not be a complete unknown to international partners. But what has Mr. Joseph really accomplished as Minister either of Environment or of Economy and Finance?

Just last month, on February 10, Le Nouvelliste, the Port-au-Prince daily, reported that Mr. Joseph said “for the past three months he had not given a gourde to Electricité d’Haïti (EDH),” the State’s electricity provider. He further said that EDH could seek loans from such institutions as the National Bank of Credit which, by the way, is tied to the government. The action taken by the Finance Minister against EDH probably is aimed at showing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that he’s the man to deal with in cutting subsidies to various programs, even for fuel subsidies, something that the IMF has been calling for before it will advance loans to the financially-strapped government. So Joute/Jouthe Joseph may be IMF’s Man in Haiti. Hopefully, they will remember that when exorbitant fuel hikes were announced by the government in July 2018, violent demonstrations caused the fall of Jovenel’s first Prime Minister, Jacques Lafontant. Since then the country has been in turmoil.

Interestingly, Fritz William Michel, who was in limbo as Prime Minister designate since July of last year, wrote a letter to President Moïse to offer his resignation. Dated February 28, the letter, appearing on the social networks, states among other things that he was “honored” to have been chosen, the “humble person” that he is, to lead the government. He also thanks the members of the Lower House of Parliament that had approved his program of government. Unfortunately, the Senate was impeded in giving its approval, as constitutionally required.

Mr. Williams said in his letter, “Convinced, Your Excellency, that there’s a necessity to develop new political dynamics for our dear country, I present my resignation.”

Fritz Michel will be remembered for the man who charged the government $325 a head for 20,000 goats said to be an “enhanced brand” for a program aimed at a bettering the goat population for Haiti’s peasantry. At that time that kind of a goat fetched $100 on the free market. He will also be remembered for his extravagances soon after he was nominated Prime Minister. He took a wing of rooms at the upscale Karibe Hotel in Pétion-Ville where his mistresses stayed in proximity. He also had a 24-hour security detail as soon as he was named Prime Minister. Eventually, the management at Karibe asked him to leave, for fear of demonstrators who began to threaten harm.

Fritz Michel, master corrupter, reportedly had bribed five senators, giving each $100,000, to obtain their vote. But they never got to vote, because the Senate was thwarted by the opposition in holding any meeting.

For how long did the government keep Fritz William Michel on the payroll and benefitting of the amenities of the post? He was hanging on for the past eight months as Prime Minister designate. What has been the cost to the State for having an interim PM in the person of Jean-Michel Lapin and a second PM in waiting in the person of Fritz William? For such corruption, the people have been asking President Moïse to resign. Will he be able to pacify the opposition with his new Prime Minister? Stay tuned.

Cet article est publié en collaboration spéciale avec Réseau HEM Geneva, et l’hebdomadaire Haïti-Observateur, édition du 4 mars 2020 VOL. L, No.8  New York, et se trouve en P. 1, 7 à : http://haiti-observateur.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/H-O-4-March-2020-1.pdf