(AFP) – Government officials in Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, will lose their perks under emergency economic and anti-corruption measures announced Saturday by Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant after days of deadly protests.

The unrest is the latest upsurge of discontent over corruption and poverty in the Caribbean half-island, where protesters want the ouster of President Jovenel Moise.

At least seven people have died in Haiti since February 7 when the latest protests began.

“The first decision is to cut the prime minister’s budget by 30 percent,” Ceant said in a 20-minute address which suggested the presidency and parliament take similar measures.

“We also need to withdraw all unnecessary privileges for high-level government officials, like allowances for gas and telephones, needless trips abroad, and the amount of consultants,” he said on state television.

Three-fifths of Haiti’s population of nearly 11 million live below the poverty line of $2 a day.

Ceant said there will be a focus on the fight against corruption and cross-border smuggling, while meetings with the private sector will be held to consider raising the minimum wage.

Protests have grown since a sporadic movement began last summer over a scandal linked to a Venezuelan aid program known as Petrocaribe.

Through Petrocaribe, Venezuela for years supplied Haiti and other countries with oil at cut-rate prices and on easy credit terms.

Investigations by the Haitian Senate in 2016 and 2017 concluded that nearly $2 billion from the program was misused.

After at least three people were killed by gunfire during protests in late November, Ceant promised a crash program to create jobs in poor neighborhoods, and assured that he was hearing the complaints of young Haitians. Continue reading

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