Haiti says ‘Bye-Bye’ to Land Cruisers as gov’t tightens belt

Hit by a string of weather-related disasters, Haiti is introducing austerity measures, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said Friday during a luncheon in his honor at his alma mater, St. Thomas University in South Florida.

11/16/2012 4:01 PM

11/16/2012 4:05 PM

Haiti’s government is saying ‘Bye-Bye’ to Land Cruisers — for now.

Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, speaking to students and faculty at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, said Friday his government has decided to reduce its expenses by $30 million and invest the savings in disaster prevention for the environmentally ravaged country.

“We will use that $30 million to clean up the canals of Cite Soleil for example, to dredge the bay of Port-au-Prince that hasn’t been cleaned, work on the drainage system,” he said. “When it rains, the water goes up and flood automatically.”

In recent weeks, scores of Haitians have died throughout the barren country after rains triggered mudslides and flooding. The string of weather-related disasters has spiked a deadly cholera outbreak and created fears of a worsening food crisis.

Haiti was now reporting 3,593 new cholera cases since Oct. 8, Jumbe Omari Jumbe of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday at a news briefing in Geneva.

As environmental conditions in Haiti deteriorate, future disasters will continue to disproportionally affect the country, including further loss of human life, property and livelihoods, the United Nations said. Hurricane Sandy, which brushed the country last month, had cause more people to be homeless in Haiti, where 370,000 people were still living in camps nearly three years after the January 2010 earthquake.

Lamothe said the spending reductions will take effect as soon as President Michel Martelly, who is currently on a European tour, issues the presidential decree.

The cuts include reducing foreign travel, downsizing on car purchases (ministers will be allowed to buy Toyota Prados, which are less expensive than Toyota Land Cruisers) and reductions in gasoline and ministry budgets.

“We took some line items from the budget and we froze them,” Lamothe said.

Both Lamothe and Martelly have come under fire by critics and some supporters for frequent travel, which include charter planes and helicopter, and large motorcades.

Lamothe announced the austerity measures during a luncheon in his honor at St. Thomas University, where he graduated in 1999 with a Masters of Business Administration. He spent the day chatting with students attending the Catholic university’s Global Entrepreneurship Week activities. Later, he told a room of specially invited luncheon guests, including Catholic Archbishop of Greater Miami Thomas Wenski and American Airlines Vice President Art Torno, that things were changing in Haiti and “out of the challenges, we have opportunities.” The country, he said, was committed to creating a more business-friendly environment for investors to put Haitians to work.

“Managing Haiti is good for a business graduate. You have to have the skills of constant emergency management,” he said to laughter. “So the challenge is to not let the emergency management derail you from the mid- to long-term management.”

St. Thomas University President Franklyn Casale said the school, which works extensively with coffee farmers and artisans in Northwest Haiti, is “heavily involved in Haiti. We are proud of our involvement. We love the country. We love the people.”

“He’s a great example of a success story of St. Thomas University,” Casale said of Lamothe.

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