New Haitian Prime Minister Vows To Attract Investment, Create Jobs

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Haiti Prime Minister

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti’s new prime minister was inaugurated Wednesday and promised to attract more investment and create jobs, while forging good relations with lawmakers who have ousted two heads of government in as many years.

Jean-Max Bellerive, the sixth person to hold the post since 2004 in this politically unstable Caribbean nation, said he will work closely with lawmakers in Haiti’s Parliament, who recently fired his predecessor in part for sticking too closely to international development plans.

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“We will take care of putting (members of Parliament) more in accordance with what we are doing,” Bellerive told The Associated Press as the just-fired former prime minister, Michele Pierre-Louis, drove away from the hilltop mansion that is now Bellerive’s headquarters.

“It’s the same program, basically. We have the same priorities” as the previous government, he said.

Bellerive, 51, officially took power as Haiti’s No. 2 in Wednesday ceremonies. He has served in a wide variety of Haitian administrations, including those of former populist President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the military junta that once ousted Aristide.

Bellerive was sworn in by President Rene Preval, who praised an orderly transition that took little more than 12 days from the ouster of one prime minister to the swearing-in of her replacement.

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That is a sharp contrast from last year, when Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis was fired after a week of violent food riots that left at least seven dead. Months of political deadlock followed before Pierre-Louis took power in the midst of hurricanes whose destruction laid out the most immediate challenges for her administration.

International focus on Haiti shifted early this year to increasing foreign investment, an effort spearheaded by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who was named U.N. Special Envoy to the country where 80 percent of people live on less than $2 a day.

During the Oct. 30 debate that ended with the firing of Pierre-Louis, lawmakers accused her of unimaginatively following international development plans, which focus largely on improving infrastructure and building up a garment assembly sector to produce goods for the U.S. market under a preferential trade deal.

But Bellerive said Wednesday he intends to see those plans through — and, in fact, speed some investment deals along by continuing in his previous role as minister of planning and external cooperation.

“I hope that we can continue to work with President Clinton in the same manner, in the same commitment that he has with the former government and with President Preval,” he told reporters. “The only way that we are going to change Haiti is through private investment, through creating jobs in Haiti.”

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