New Haiti government begins work


Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille

A day after being sworn-in at the broken presidential palace, Prime Minister Garry Conille sets about tackling myriad priorities.

Haiti Prime Minister Garry Conille began his first official day on the job Wednesday with a meetings-packed agenda that included sitting with President Michel Martelly and the 18 members of government to outline his vision and priorities.

And there are no shortages of them in an earthquake-ravaged Haiti, where the months-long political vacuum has slowed an already halting recovery and hundreds of millions of dollars in aid have been held back by foreign donors.

The new government was officially sworn in late Tuesday afternoon at a ceremony at the broken National Palace, across from one of the capital’s largest post-quake encampments.

While it symbolized the official end to months of political gridlock and the end of the tenure of former Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who thanked lawmakers and Haiti’s foreign partners for accompanying him through one of the country’s most difficult challenges in history, it also marked the beginning of resumed expectations by millions of Haitians who believed in Martelly’s campaign of change.

In an exclusive interview with The Miami Herald, Conille, 45, a medical doctor with a public health background, spoke of his vision and the pursuit of those priorities. A former senior United Nations official who has worked in several African countries, he says Haiti’s problems are solvable.

But doing so means bringing everyone around “a common vision, a common objective.”

“We are going to make sure that in the next few months every single district can see and feel change and investments in their neighborhoods,” Conille said, referring to rural communities outside of the teeming capital.

The focus on the rural projects is part of “a series of quick wins,” that will focus not just on the camps, where about 600,000 Haitians are still living, but rebuilding the destroyed government ministries.

All are shoring up stability, he said, and showing Haitians that “democracy really does bring change.”

But transforming Haitians lives will not be easy in a country with divisive dysfunctional politics, weak and non-existent institutions and where competing interests and ideologies have unhinged past leaders.

“It would be nice if Conille could clone himself 1,000 times over,” said Jocelyn McCalla, a longtime Haiti political expert. “His coolness during the confirmation hearings and his grasp of Haiti’s challenges are impressive. I sincerely hope that he succeeds at bringing much needed discipline and purpose to government administration in Haiti.”

But it’s already been six months since Martelly, a former musician and political novice, was sworn in and his “political capital is wearing thin as he clashes with the press, members of parliament and insists on deploying a Haitian army which can only end up being a rag-tag army,” McCalla said.

“The ability to achieve a modus operandi that leverages leaders’ abilities to get things done is key to progress,” McCalla said of Conille.

Conille said his Cabinet’s work will focused mainly around Martelly’s five priorities — environment, job creation, state of law, energy and education.

“We want to get Haitians to dream about what Haiti could be,” Conille said. “That will require hope.”

Another centerpiece of his vision, Conille said, is addressing Haiti’s deadly cholera epidemic. It was a year ago this month that the waterborne disease had its first outbreak in Haiti, and so far it has killed nearly 6,500 Haitians, and sickened almost a half-million. The disease, according to Partners In Health, a non-governmental organization run by Dr. Paul Farmer, said the disease is on its way to becoming the “leading infectious killer of adults and children” in Haiti.

Conille said he wants to launch an army of young Haitians — one for every 200 households — to serve as community health workers to educate communities about prevention and treatment . Conille said he also plans to look into the controversial use of oral cholera vaccine, which is being strongly pushed by Farmer and Partners In Health. On Wednesday, the group announced that it plans to vaccinate 100,000 Haitians to control the epidemic and as part of a larger national campaign.

“I see this, despite the fact that it has had a devastating effect, as an opportunity for us to quickly strengthen our system and address other big public health issues,” he said.

Another immediate task awaiting him is the country’s relationship with the Haitian-American diaspora. Like their family members back home, they have to have been anxiously awaiting a new government that they hope will provide them with the opportunity to be involved in their country’s rebuilding. An amendment recognizing dual nationality and pushed by former President René Préval has remained in limbo over disagreements between parliamentarians and the executives over changes actually passed during the final chaotic hours of voting in May.

Conille said Martelly has set up a committee to review the dual nationality issue. Regardless of the outcome, he said, Haitians living outside of the country can expect “a government that is aggressively going to pursue their needs.”


Author: `