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Former Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis interview

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Informal conversation before formal interview starts. Journalist Roosevelt Jean-Francois: Tell us about yourself. What are you doing now? Former Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis: I just received a fellowship at Harvard. Roosevelt: Wonderful! That's what I heard! So, what are you doing? I am going straight to Harvard after this event. My work was supposed to start in January. But, due to the earthquake, I asked them to postpone my starting date. So, they accepted to change it to September. However, I was required to be there in March, at least for one week. I had to be present here for the "Sustainable Haiti" Conference and participate in workshops. I also went back to Haiti. I went back to FOCAL and I am involved in specific projects. Roosevelt Jean-Francois: What are those specific projects? First, I am involved in a project to create a national park in Martissant. I managed to get President Preval to declare public domain the former "Habitation Leclerc" and it's going to be turned into a park. R.J.F.: I visited Haiti after the earthquake and saw that this area was being used by the Police Officers. Mrs. Pierre-Louis: Yes, that's correct. But we are organizing the park with different other partners from Europe, US, ect. Roosevelt Jean-Francois: Wonderful! That's wonderful! My second project started before the seism. But, it's is now reinforced. It's about saving the gingerbread houses. Our project perimeter would go from "Bas-Peu-De-Chose" to "Turgeau". We also made an assessment of the area. We already have about one hundred in our inventory of targeted houses. I am creating a school for craftmen or skilled laborers to handle the rehabilitation of the gingerbread houses R.J.F.: This project is very interesting. I have lived in a gingerbread house that was over a 100 years old. You see how long they last. R.J.F.: Your first project targets Martissant. Your second is in Port-au-Prince. Tell us about your third project. My third project has to do with something I did when I was Prime Minister. I created the "Comité Inter-ministériel pour l'Aménagement du Territoire". Which is CIAT. I also created an office for the CIAT. All the donors were happy to know that there was one agency to coordinate all the activities. I asked CIAT, on behalf of FOCAL, to prepare the urban planning for two cities that are very important in our history. I want to see the creation of urban planning that fosters national and regional decentralization. The targeted cities are: Marchand-Dessalines; the first capital of Haiti; the first capital of the free black world. And also, there are forts in Marchand. [the 365-door-fortress]. Yes, you understand. Marchand is historically very important. Another important city is Mole-St-Nicolas. It's the city where Christopher Columbus set his feet when he first visited Hispaniola. The first city visited by the Europeans who settled in the new world, was Mole-St-Nicolas. This is an inside city: always protected from hurricanes and bad weather; from earthquakes also , no tectonic plaque. There are lots of lands; lots of potentials to develop agro-industrial businesses. Beside the economical and historical tourtistic aspects, there is also the ocean, desired by the powerful countries of the world.... (laughter) To summarize: Mole-St-Nicolas has Hispanic, English, and French forts overlooking the Turtle Island (Ile de la Tortue). In addition, Mole-St-Nicolas has tremendous development potentials for airport, tourism, economical growth, etc R.J.F.: Everything you said seems very interesting. I was not present at your presentation but I heard that you were terrific. I also know that you are an advocate for social philanthropy. What is your view of that social venture? What do you think of social entrepreneurship? Usually, capitalist entrepreneurship comes first, and social entrepreneurship comes second. Could you please share your point of view of philanthropy? Could you tell us what you think of the NGO's, the non governmental organizations? The non-profit organizations, socially oriented vs the others? Mrs. Pierre-Louis: There is a little bit of everything in it. However, we have to think differently. Whe have to shift from one paradigm to another. We have to think about development. In our situation, we have to think of the construction or the reconstruction of Haiti. What does that mean? It means that we cannot allow ourselves to ignore each individual. We cannot do this without the population. We have to get the people involved. It's not about coming into the marketplace and getting rich fast as a savage capitalist would do. It's something different. It's about creating growth. It's about creating wealth through skills building. The laborers males and females need to acquire the skills they need. Once they are skilled labor, they will be able to perform jobs, work, make a living. It's the idealist philosophy in a certain way. The world just shifted. The world just changed. It's not everyone who understands it. That's why these conferences are important. They help a lot of people understand the new philosophy behind entrepreneurship, the new approaches. Actually, it's been around for a while. It is now understood that entrepreneurs have to count on the participation, the involvement of their laborers, their workers. It is also understood that profits have to be redistributed and shared with those who made it possible, who participated in making it happen. A country like Haiti will never move ahead with aid only. Aid might be important, specially now. We need relief effort: food, water, shelter, medicine. But we cannot stop there. Most importantly, what we need to rebuild, we need to move to the reconstruction phase. We cannot let pirate enterprises, mafias and international criminals take over the market in Haiti. They will only be interested in making money fast R.J.F.: You're talking about the aventurers. M.P.L.: That's correct. Exactly like colonial times. No more. We need rules, regulations, standards. In addition, all Haitian workers, males and females, private employees and public servants need to contribute to the state wealth by paying their taxes Paying tax is linked to the concept of social entrepreneurship because it's about time to be formal. R.J.F.: I remember a prior point of view you expressed 10 years ago in the Haitian magazine "Colloque". At this time, you were promoting this idea. M.P.L.: I was talking about "Social Justice". R.J.F.: [That's correct. I have read about that kind of litterature]. [Now you have more experience. Not only in the private sector with capitalism but also in the social organizations. Your experience is kind of broad] I have heard suggestions about Haiti to become a free market. What do you think of that idea? We can no longer use "Marronage" as a way to protest. R.J.F.: [Should we try to turn to "Leadership"?] M.P.L.: You said the right word: "Leadership. We have a leadership crisis. M.P.L.: We need leaders who understand social communication and deep respect of the individuals and their dignity. We need to make an effort to transcend. We need to rise above our own interests. Our contry need people who can make that transcendental effort. That's how we will be able to reach a point where we can live together and produce growth and wealth. Because we need to produce in our country. We cannot continue to be beggers. We have to stop begging and start producing. I have first hand experience while I was Prime Minister. It's hard. It's terrible. We cannot do our budget. Everything we want to do for our contry depends on international aid. We can't continue like this. It's about time for Haitian people to pay their taxes. Too many Haitians avoid their tax payments. It's a vicious cycle. However we tried. We tried to get it done. When Aristide left Haiti, tax payments were approximately around 7% to 8%. We raised fiscal entry to 11%. We really tried our best to encourage Haitian people to pay their tax. But tax evasion remains a big problem. As we said, it's a vicious cycle. People said they are not paying their tax because they are not getting services from the government. [What comes first: the egg or the chiken?] The governement has its hands tied when taxes are not paid. As a result, services cannot be provided. They also said: I am not paying because the government is corrupted". But they need to understand that they need to pay. That's the law. Tax payments will increase the government capacity to respond to the needs of the population and will decrease the need to depend on international aid. Only at this time, we will really be able to do more social work. There are a lot of things that could be privatized. Let's take a look at Education. Education is mostly private in Haiti. That's an abnormal situation. But I am talking about enterprises, businesses. Here is an example. I visited Cuba, a Socialist country. The cuban airport is managed by a British enterprise. They built it and now they manage it. They are in charge of the commercial aspect of the airport. But all airport rules,regulations, and policies are controlled by cuban authorities. To follow an example like this, we need to think out of the box, we need to bring new solutions. Once again we need to have the courage to rise above, transcend and bring solutions that work for our country. [I have one last question to ask you.] R.J.F.: I know you have to go on a trip. I am going to let you go. Just tell me: How do you see the future? How do you see the transition in Haiti? How do you see the transfer of power knowing it's been one of the key issues in Haiti? M.P.L.: Frankly, I have to tell you, I don't really have an opinion about how everything will go. The earthquake really changed our priorities. And we are now requestioning a lot of things. However, I am deeply convinced that a legimate government has been a big plus for Haiti right now. We don't want to fall back into temporary, transitional governments, the way it's been during the past 25 years. We don't want to fall back into temporary, transitional governments, the way it's been during the past 25 years. The choice of the new president need to be the choice of the population. He needs to be chosen not only for his character but also for his plan. We need to know what that person wants to do because we are in a very difficult situation. We need someone with a program and charisma. We need someone who will bring together everyone, who will call for all Haitians to participate in the rebuilding of Haiti. R.J.F.: [How about you? Are you willing to participate?] M.P.L.: Participate in the reconstruction of my country: Yes. Certainly, I will. But participate in politics in Haiti? It's something different. I have had my experience. Those who pushed me away are still there. R.J.F.: [Oh! I didn't know there are people who didn't want you.] Of course, there are. That's why I am no longer Prime Minister. (Laughter) R.J.F.: No! I didn't know that. (Laughter).... Mrs. Pierre-Louis, it was a real pleasure being with you in this space. Thank you for this interview.

Video Details

Duration: 13 minutes and 2 seconds
Year: 2010
Country: United States
Language: French (France)
Producer: Tod Landess
Director: Knight Center for International Media
Views: 302
Posted by: trevorg on Mar 26, 2010

Roosevelt Jean-Francois of CECOSIDA interviews Former Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis

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