Haiti Welcomes New Prime Minister

  Jack Guy Lafontant, a political novice and gastroenterologist, took office as Haiti’s prime minister on March 21 after receiving approval from both houses of Parliament.

Following 18 hours of deliberations, President Jovenel Moïse’s hand-picked candidate obtained 95 votes in favor, six against, and two abstentions in the Chamber of Deputies. The Senate approved him days before.  

In his swearing-in ceremony, Lafontant urged citizens of the deeply polarized country to bridge divisions and vowed to bring steady advances amid Haiti’s economic struggles.  

“The hour is grave, and the legacy is heavy,” Lafontant said before Moïse and his cabinet. “I’ve inherited the prime minister’s job at a time when inflation is galloping, where the decline of the [Haitian] gourd is accelerating, and where agriculture, the main backbone of the economy, continues to lose its competitiveness.”

In the face of economic hardship, Lafontant called for “deep reforms” in the severely underfunded health sector, a “non-stop struggle” against corruption, and improvements to education. His plan for the government also includes boosting agricultural production, expanding access to water, and improving infrastructure.

During his confirmation hearing, Lafontant was questioned by members of Parliament on how he plans to finance the many ambitious projects he proposed, considering the government’s annual operating budget currently stands at approximately $2 billion. In response, the new prime minister assured lawmakers that his vision can be accomplished if both supporters and opponents work together to evaluate projects and their feasibility.

Lafontant replaced Enex Jean-Charles as prime minister after the latter resigned when Jovenel Moïse became president on February 7. With no political experience, Lafontant’s government faces many challenges ahead, including soaring inflation, a sky-high cost of living, a deadly cholera epidemic, and the imminent withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers.

Acknowledging the nation’s increasing problems, Moïse welcomed the new prime minister. “To start this battle, we needed a government,” he said when Lafontant took office on March 21. “Today, with the installation of this government, the battle has started.”