Sat, May 18, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Without Venezuela’s oil, Haiti left in the dark


The path out is murky at best. When Haitian President Jovenel Moise tried to eliminate fuel subsidies on July 6 last year and raise prices of various petroleum products by 38 to 51 percent, protesters took to streets across the country calling for him to step down.

The decision was quickly reversed and the IMF has since offered the hemisphere’s poorest nation a US$96 million low-interest loan.

Protesters are also enraged by corruption. A Haitian senate investigation found that more than US$2 billion in profits from the Petrocaribe program had been wasted or stolen, leading to a months-long citizen campaign calling for more probes and prosecutions.

“The shortages are creating panic. The economy is being damaged. The best approach is liberalizing the market and regulating it, to avoid these problems,” said Maarten Boute, CEO of Digicel, Haiti’s largest mobile phone network provider.

Several other countries in the region have weathered the end of Petrocaribe far better.

Jamaica is seeing record economic performance, while Cuba is suffering from food and fuel shortages, although not as grave as Haiti’s.

Moise’s administration has asked the bureau, the finance ministry and private energy companies to suggest ways to further open up the petroleum market, but bureau director Fils Aime Ignace St Fleur said the agency would not give up its role overseeing the importation and wholesale pricing of petroleum in Haiti.

“The state reserves the right to intervene directly in the market,” he said.

In Bourdon, Jean said her situation was becoming dire.

Jean said she could not find gas, the price of a taxi has doubled and her children often strain their eyes to study in dim light.

“Without electricity, we’re in a very difficult situation,” she said.

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