PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI – In most countries, someone like Wilson Laleau who served as Minister of Finance and Commerce in two different administrations, and who has been allegedly accused of embezzlement and theft of government funds would be busy conferring with defense lawyers as opposed to setting up the agenda for a new president. Imagine if Reins Priebus, the White house Chief of Staff for President Donald Trump had been under suspicious for embezzlement and corruption. He will not be near Washington DC, much less inside the white house. But Haiti, as former Haitian President Michel Martelly famously said during a radio interview in 2011 “corruption is legal in Haiti”.

What the former president was referring to was that in Haiti, news of a government official stealing or misusing government resources is equating to saying there are twenty-four hours in a day. No one really pays attention to it, because it is common knowledge. Every government official in Haiti is expected to become rich, and Wilson Laleau would not be any different. However, what makes Wilson Laleau’s case different is that many government officials who became rich normally would leave the government to enjoy their new found riches in countries like the Dominican Republic, the United States or Canada, but Wilson Laleau is not done yet.

Corruption is a global cancer affecting the economic health of every nation in the planet. No country is totally safe from corruption. However, like a cancer corruption affects countries differently. In rich countries where corruption can be controlled, the effect is less pronounced, but in countries like Haiti with bureaucrats like Wilson Laleau, the corruption becomes a Metastasized cancer eating at the heart of the country economic well being. According to the World Economic Forum and the World Bank, corruption constitutes more than 5% of global GDP – some 2.6 trillion dollars with over 1 trillion dollar paid in bribe each year.

Corruption is a breach of the public trust where government bureaucrats use their position of power for their own personal gains. An example, is the Petrocaribe funds which includes acts of embezzlement, fraud, money laundering, theft, bid rigging in which several high level public officials in the Haitian government including the current chief of staff of the Haitian president Jovenel Moise receive allegedly his kickback .

Corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to Haiti’s economic and social development. It increases the cost of conducting business in Haiti; preventing foreign investment; encourages waste and inefficiencies in the use of public resources and contribute to inequality and poverty. In the Petrocaribe case, nearly a 400 million dollars were paid allegedly in bribe to several government officials such as Wilson Laleau and others. This money could have been used to build 50 primary schools, 39 clinics in area of Haiti where access to medical care is nonexistent and two high tech universities.

Studies have shown that there is a negative correlation between corruption and the quality of government investments. For example, a review of the Petrocaribe contracts issued allegedly by Wilson Laleau between 2011 and 2014 demonstrated a specific intent to invest in sectors that did not represent the best value for government fund, but pay high kickbacks. Nearly 98% of the no bid contracts issued and paid for were for constructions of local highway, and residential development projects. Meanwhile more pressing social issues like education and health are neglected because the opportunity for bribe and high kickbacks are less.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) current research on corruption shows that in corrupt countries like Haiti, foreign investment is five percent less than in countries that are relatively free of corruption. Unfortunately, President Jovenel Moise has not read the report, because his administration seems to endorse corruption at every level of the Haitian government. The hiring of Wilson Laleau as chief of staff sent a clear message to the world that Haiti will not take steps to starve off corruption. That kind of reputational damage to Haiti has consequences. One of them is the current communique issued by the Attorney General of Grenada to not only his country but other countries in the Caribbean to protect their banking system against ongoing money laundering and possible terrorist financing risks from Haiti. This type of backslash cannot be ignored, and does not help Haiti and its people.

Certainly, there was corruption prior to Wilson Laleau becoming Minister of Finance and Commerce and recently Chief of Staff to the president, and there will continue to be corruption after Mr. Laleau resigns to his expensive villa purchased by bribe money. Nevertheless, a credible senate investigation report concluded that Mr. Laleau was involved in bribery, embezzlement, fraud and money laundering, and as such, must not be a member of the Haitian government.

Omega Staff Writers



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