By Vania Andre

Jobs are a top priority for Haitian citizens, according to poll results released last month. The nationwide poll was conducted by OCAPH, a Haitian-based civil organization, to bring to light the issues candidates in the upcoming election should be paying attention to.

“By a sizeable majority, jobs came in as the top priority,” OCAPH said in a statement.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, citizens have been empowered to voice their concerns using their cellphone,” said Guerda Previlon, OCAPH Deputy Director.  “The poll is the first step in a series of citizen actions OCAPH will be taking in the coming months.  We are determined to create a national debate platform based on issues that truly matter to our people.”

“The results mirror research I’ve done,” Professor Gamarra of Florida International University said.  Gamarra is a political science professor with an interest in Haitian politics. He also owns a polling firm and has consulted for former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.  “A lot of what you will see in the poll results is related to issues with the economy and an absence of jobs.”

Unemployment is a concern for Haitians across all departments, he says.

The poll conducted by OCAPH is an interesting one, Gamarra said. It’s trying to get people involved in identifying the problems the country has.

Haitians have the highest rate of volunteering to address their country’s issues and want to self-organize, he says.  However, they also expect the government to play a role and help fix the problems.

OCAPH partnered with 10 other organizations to conduct the poll, which took place on May 18.  Roughly15, 000 people took part in the poll, which was conducted in Haitian Creole. Participants were able to send their responses via text messaging, phone calls, Facebook and popular messaging service, Whatsapp.

There’s an enormous belief and expectation that the candidates running for president have the resolve and know how to alleviate these problems, Gamarra says.  But in actuality the majority can’t help. The most tangible assistance has been from remittances and NGOs.

For Gamarra, Lamothe is the only candidate that has the ability to address the concerns voiced by the Haitian people.

“Lamothe is the only one with ideas,” he says.  “Of all the candidates, I don’t see any other person who has the intellect to manage Haiti. Not only does he have the ideas, but he also has the name recognition.”

Lamothe was blocked from running for president in early June, despite attempts to lobby U.S. politicians and the Diaspora for support. His nomination was blocked because he was unable to obtain a décharge, which certifies government officials did not misuse state funds during their tenure. Lamothe argues the décharge, which is given by Congress, is “impossible” to get because the country has been functioning without parliament since January.

While jobs are on the forefront of the minds of Haiti’s people, the international community has its eyes on the deportation of thousands of Dominico-Haitians from the Dominican Republic to Haiti – a move that many experts agree will exacerbate the already dire situation in Haiti.

So far roughly 14,000 people have crossed the border, Haiti Prime Minister Evans Paul said last week. The majority of those crossing are children and young adults.

We need to “establish a social and economic plan to help them,” he said, “creating camps near the border will only lead to more poverty.”

“Our poll is the first phase of a three-phase project to build transparency and accountability as elections approach,” OCAPH said. “We want hopeful electoral candidates to know in no uncertain terms what is expected of them.”

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