Demonstrators march along a street during a protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 14 July 2018. Photo: ReutersEmbattled Haiti prime minister Jack Guy Lafontant resigned on Saturday following deadly violence and looting sparked by a now-abandoned plan to raise fuel prices.”I submitted my resignation to the president of the republic,” who has “accepted my resignation,” Lafontant said in the lower house of Haiti’s legislature.Lafontant had faced a potential vote of no confidence had he not resigned — something he had previously insisted he would not do.Last week, the government in the impoverished Caribbean country announced plans for major fuel price hikes — 38 per cent for gasoline, 47 per cent for diesel and 51 per cent for kerosene.The announcement sparked mass protests, with streets in the capital Port-au-Prince and other cities blocked with barricades of debris and burning tires.Dozens of shops were looted and burned and cars were set ablaze. At least four people were killed. The government quickly did an about-face and called off the planned price increases.Lafontant, a physician who had little political experience before taking office in February 2017, had faced widespread criticism even before the spasm of violence.Several hundred protesters marched on Saturday in Port-au-Prince demanding the departure not just of Lafontant, but also of president Jovenel Moise.”It’s not just a question of changing the prime minister, because day by day, the people are still suffering from more misery, unemployment, insecurity, hunger,” said Fleurette Pierre, one of the demonstrators.Haiti is desperately poor: around 60 per cent of its people live on less than two dollars a day, and they are extremely sensitive to even minor increases in prices of just about anything.In February, Haiti signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the Washington-based global crisis lender, in which the country committed to carrying out economic and structural reforms to promote growth.- ‘More gradual approach’ -One of those conditions was the elimination of petroleum product subsidies, prompting the doomed price hike proposal.The accord also called on the government to keep inflation under 10 per cent.Since 2015, inflation has been running at 13 to 14 per cent annually. The budget blueprint submitted to the legislature in late June still foresaw a rate of 13.6 per cent.On Thursday, the IMF suggested “a more gradual approach” to ending fuel subsidies, paired with “compensatory and mitigating measures to protect the most vulnerable people.””We will continue to support Haiti… as they develop a revised reform strategy,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said, noting that ending subsidies would free up funds for other programmes such as education.Crafting a revised strategy — and divvying up Haiti’s meagre budget resources — will be a delicate task.The decision to scrap the price hikes means the government will have to find another way to come up with the $300 million the move would have generated.It is not an insignificant amount — the total is more than 11 per cent of the 2018-2019 budget presented to parliament in June for debate.Now, Moise’s government has to find a way to appease all sides — angry and impatient consumers, politicians with varying interests and IMF economists.Haiti’s deep levels of inequality are often cited by protesters who want both Lafontant and Moise out of office.More than 200 years after gaining independence from France, Haiti is still ranked by the World Bank as having one of earth’s most unjust societies.
To pay tribute to legendary Bengali actor Uttam Kumar, the government of West Bengal organised a retrospective of his films at Muktadhara Auditorium in the city. This is second such festival featuring his movies within a span of two months.The festival was inaugurated in the presence of Rajesh Kumar, ADG and Officer on Special Duty,
Kolkata: A major fire broke out at a multi-storied building located on Lenin Sarani near Lotus Crossing on Sunday evening. Six fire tenders doused the fire within a few hours. None got injured or trapped in the incident.According to sources, on Sunday at around 5:30 pm locals saw smoke coming out of a building’s roof located at 171, Lenin Sarani. Immediately, Bowbazar police station and the fire brigade were informed. Initially four fire tenders were pressed into action and later two more were called in. A hydraulic ladder was also sent. Also Read – Rs 13,000 crore investment to provide 2 lakh jobs: MamataLocal residents informed that there is a guest house at the said building. On Sunday, fire broke out on a temporary structure and spread to the fourth floor. As the building was evacuated before the fire spread, none was hurt. On the roof a temporary structure had been made, but the purpose of the structure is not clear yet. Some locals stated that it was being used as the kitchen for the guest house, whereas others claimed that an undergarment factory used to run there. Also Read – Lightning kills 8, injures 16 in stateTo control the blaze, firefighters went to the roofs of other adjacent buildings and started spraying water in ‘zig zag’ method. The hydraulic ladder was used to spray water from Lenin Sarani. While firefighters were dousing the fire, the temporary structure on the roof collapsed. Meanwhile, occupants of the other adjacent buildings got panic stricken and went outside. Also due to thick black smoke, some locals felt uneasy and breathless. At around 7 pm, the fire was controlled. Later, Fire minister Sujit Bose went to the spot and interacted with the fire brigade officials. “Our men are working. Fire has been controlled. Anything more can be said only after inquiry,” said Bose. MLA Nayna Bandyopadhyay also went to the spot. It has been alleged that the temporary construction which was made on the roof of the building, is illegal. But it is yet to be confirmed from the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) whether any permission was given to erect such a structure. Sources informed that whether the building owner and the guest house owner had obtained all the necessary permissions from the competent authorities or not will be checked. If any flaw is found, the fire brigade may lodge a complaint against the building owner and the guest house owner.