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Brian's Beat: Haiti - So much government, so little power

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Ward 11 official website

Haiti is described as chaotic. And it is! It is a tumbled mess, literally and figuratively. The streets are full of people everywhere, everything happening at the same time. Getting around can only be described as chaotic as people and vehicles are everywhere going every which way without a single road sign or traffic light in sight.

But today, I spent the full day discovering a whole new level of chaos in Haiti, and that would be the government structures. Oh my, but they are the definition of a tangled web! The problem with trying to write about it is the same as trying to decipher it: where to start??

So let’s see; they have a President, and a Prime Minister. They have a parliament and a senate, each elected. They don’t have provinces or states, but they do have municipal councils, that are made up of a mayor and 2 deputy mayors. They are supposed to be elected, but 2 years ago, the President fired them all and put in his people instead. That’s the easy part!

The national government is divided into ministries, many many ministries, and they overlap. There is one that we have to primarily deal with, the Ministere de l’Interieure et des Collectivites Territoriales, and a sub department through the Directeur des Communes Territoriales. Where the work of the ministries overlap, there are Commissions made up of each ministry. But, you can’t rely on the commission to be a decision maker as it doesn’t have any power.

The country is divided into 10 regions that are Communes Territoriales.  The Communes may or may not be organized and work together (most aren’t) but when they do, they form a sort of regional government. This regional government is unofficial, voluntary and has no power, though they do have money and staff. We are working with one of these, the CMRP (Communaute des Municipalities de la Regions des Palmes).

There are a myriad of other commissions and government organizations that are to execute the development plans for the communes that may or may not exist. And to put it all into the on-the-ground context: Leogane, one of the towns we are working with, lost 90% of their buildings in the earthquake. So, capacity to even execute on a plan, if it exists, is questionable.

And this is why we are here: to help find the way forward, to wend our way through the governmental tangle to be able to set up the very local governments, such as Leogane, to be able to deliver basic service such as water, electricity, sewage, and garbage collection.

We have quite the Gordian knot to untangle in Haiti.

This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.

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