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How indirect elections are tied to Haiti’s development

The Haitian Times
By BOBB ROUSSEAU

Haitian deputies HT
Haitian deputies raising their hands during the passing of a bill in April 2018. Photo via Gary Bodeau’s Twitter account

Because of their proximity and familiarity with the needs of their community, territorial assemblies are synonymous with the fiscal decentralization and accountability of local leaders toward making budgetary decisions for bona fide allocations and pragmatic municipal tax commitments. 

Indirect elections are local development’s institutional, material, and normative pedals. They allow local governments to forge alliances with their residents. They strengthen local governments to implement the areas of tax jurisdiction established in the 2013 decree on the functioning of territorial collectivities.

The population does not vote directly in indirect elections. The local elected officials choose from among themselves delegates to form territorial assemblies to manage and administer the communities. Communal sections and city representatives hold elections to create municipal assemblies, which elect delegates to form departmental assemblies. The latter will elect ten members among themselves to form the interdepartmental council, which will set up the Permanent Electoral Council and participate in the Council of Ministers. A department will have as many municipal assemblies as it has communes. There will be as many departmental assemblies as departments, but there will always be only one interdepartmental assembly. ASECs, mayors, deputies, and senators do not participate in indirect elections. The 2013 decree on local authorities’ functioning identifies local councils’ members as local development agents with adequate skills to manage and administer local taxes for their respective local government.

The 2013 decree is the fiscal framework for the decentralization of the fiscal autonomy of local governments. It is aligned with Articles 66 to 88 of the 1987 Constitution. It gives local governments the right to impose local taxes on their respective residents. Local taxes are contributions set by the State to fund public services ranging from education to garbage collection, sewer maintenance, burial, construction to property taxes.

Communal taxes, 70% and 80% of which remain in the communes where they are collected are practically useless because much of them are not collected, and the little collected is not committed to the needs of communities. CASECs and mayors are clueless regarding their roles as tax collection entities. Thus, since they do not intervene in their fields to tax residents, the central State intervenes through local DGI offices to collect for the State. Territorial assemblies are designed to provide checks and balances to state control over local taxes. The failure to hold indirect elections prevents their existence and functioning where it is the central State that determines local budgets, or it is the circumscription’s deputy or senator who develops bogus projects for their constituents.

Indirect elections are an additional layer of economic development and local fiscal autonomy. They exist to facilitate pragmatic management and scientific administration of the communities, especially communal sections that are the basis of national development. Territorial assemblies will be essential to manage local taxes because they will be allowed to determine local budgets and develop action plans to address previously identified social issues. They will be the weapon of mobilization and the oversight agency for electoral procedures at the constituency level. They will be the body for the defense and protection of the fundamental rights of communities to the Council of Ministers and the executive.

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