Tuesday, September 25, 2018
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My Hope, Jovenel Moïse would Federalize Haiti

Samuel Maxime


If I were in Jovenel Moïse’s shoes, President-elect of Haiti, presumably, I would come to the understanding that Haiti’s people is what makes the country great, not me or my plans. For that reason, my mission as president would focus more on putting behind the people more power to facilitate their will, creativity and innovation to improve their own lives and local communities. For these ends, day one in office would about decentralizing power to each of the ten departments, putting in their own hands the power to forge their own unique path and destiny. This real and true decentralization project of Haiti is the basis of all development and it only comes through a federalization of government.

The decentralization plan that former President Michel Martelly, his predecessors and even the incoming politicians have always understood has involved investing in the cities and rural areas outside of Port-au-Prince. For Martelly it was street lights, recreational areas, mills, roads, carnivals, outside of Port-au-Prince, package that and call it decenralization. Good notions but not really decentralization.

In practice, from Port-au-Prince, millions are passed to lawmakers, senators and deputies to manage, and that is not their right as Members of Parliament to handle money or execute projects. In practice, other times, they would establish committees from Port-au-Prince to oversee investments around the country and this was messy. People in Fort-Liberte liked that the government in P-A-P was investing in infrastructure projects in their city, people in Les Cayes loved that they would be having a National Carnival, but neither liked that the project was being undertaken by a committee from the capital. Locals always felt like they could do it better than the in-sourced helped.

Now, there is such a thing called Departmental Delegates in Haiti. These are ten executives appointed by the administration to oversee respective departments. These appointees have the duties of managing executive actions in their appointed department, most often they would be familiar with the department, sometimes they would be from the department, reside in the department, but still, that never meant real power to the department. These people were appointed by the powers in Port-au-Prince.

Real power to the people around Haiti comes from the the people of around Haiti, each department having their own, unique say, and this is accomplished by unique representative government. A unique representative government will give each department the power to decide whether it will or will not collect its own taxes, from within its department, and how they would do it. Unique departmental representative government would have their own power to pass and enforce their own laws, those it feels necessary to grow and develop. And within their borders, each can develop the plans and execute those plans for projects they deem important.

Port-au-Prince can’t best decide the needs of fishermen and hoteliers in the South East. The farmers in the Central Plateau, who want to grow livestock and work the land, should not be under the influence of the North, a department more focused on shipping and manufacturing. Should the traders, merchants and would-be miners in the North East be subject to the influences of wranglers in the Grand’Anse and Nippes? No.

There is a political benefit for the president in a federalized government. There’s not so much heat on your back for things getting done.

The people in their respective departments will elect their departmental executive, legislative and judicial branches and many of the ills of their communities will be expected to be addressed by their departmental governments first, before it having to reach the president.

How close are we to accomplishing this? Not close. So far, Jovenel Moise has made remarks against elections. He said the frequency of elections is too much. To truly decentralize and put power in people’s hands, it would take elections to be frequent and at many levels and throughout the country. I personally don’t see that as a problem but a necessity.

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About The Author

Samuel Maxime is a Haitian-born citizen living in the United States. He founded The Haiti Sentinel to bring Haitian issues to an English language audience.