By Onz Chery
President Jovenel Moïse said he has increased taxes on imports and founded a bank for farmers in Haiti so that the country no longer relies on others to feed its citizens. Moïse made the remarks on Friday, during an event about the economy of food security and nutrition streamed via Facebook Live.
“No country in this world that respects itself is going to let another country fill their people’s stomachs,” Moïse said. “Its main goal is to produce, so it can feed itself.”
Moïse didn’t specify the new amount of taxes nor if he raised income taxes as well. The Ministry of Finance and Economy didn’t answer phone calls for comments.
Moïse started the National Bank for Agricultural Development (BNDA) with funds from the public treasury in August. He didn’t give much more details about it but later specified that farmers will be able to make transactions via a tablet without even going to the bank on Friday.
The idea of the BNDA had been sitting in the Office of the President since 1989, Moïse said in August. Watching a farmer on television say that the sector needs financial backing to be sustained inspired Moïse to launch the bank. More than 1 million farmers can now use the bank, Moïse said.
Farmers will be able to get a loan from BNDA, a process that is very hard at other banks.
“To get a loan in this country, people need Jean-Jacues Dessalines’s birth certificate and must find Toussaint Louverture’s baptism certificate,” Moïse said, conjuring the country’s heroes to highlight the difficulty for farmers.
Moïse said the new amount of import taxes turned many heads. Some prominent foreigners asked their presidents to look for an explanation of why he has raised taxes.
“I never asked their presidents why they raised taxes in their countries, but I kindly answered them that we raised our taxes to protect our production at home,” Moïse said.
Haiti imports food mainly from the United States and Dominican Republic.
Going forward, Haiti’s budget will include funds to increase the production of rice, flour, tomatoes, spaghetti, and other staple foods. The government more than doubled its budget for food production in its 2020-2021 budget of 254 billion gourdes, about $3.7 billion.
Moïse often gets criticized on social media but during his last speech, warm comments flooded the Facebook Live stream.
“President Jovenel, keep pushing so we can have another Haiti,” Julie Saint Preux commented. “If I was you Haitians in Haiti, every day you guys wake up, you guys should be praying for President Jovenel who loves Haitians and Haiti.”