|Lamothe clears Senate|
|Thursday, 12 April 2012 14:22|
After much anticipation, the Senate approved President Michel Martelly's nomination for prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, on Tuesday. Lawmakers supported Lamothe's nomination 19 to three, with one abstention.
The Senate's consent was a major hurdle for Lamothe, who aims to take on Haiti's second-in-command seat after former PM Garry Conille resigned in February. Lamothe's position will be official after final approval from the Chamber of Deputies.
The news comes just in time for Haiti's rebuilding process, which as slowed significantly due to political in-fighting and sluggish release of funding pledged by government and international organizations. Many pledges have been held backed by officials of donating countries, arguing that the vacuum caused by Conille's departure would put aid funds in jeopardy. Only about half of the $4.6 billion pledged for 2010 and 2011 has been received. Lamothe's nomination is hoped to jumpstart the distribution of aid from these foreign nations and organizations.
Lamothe currently served as Foreign Minister. A former businessman, Lamothe founded Global Voice Group in 1998 – a South African-based telecommunications company that gained international success. In 2008 the international accounting firm Ernst and Young named Lamothe "Entrepreneur of the Year." He also has close ties with the Haitian Diaspora in Florida, where he studied both at St. Barry University and St. Thomas University.
His foreign education and international ties however have been at the root of protests against the nomination. Lamothe is among several officials, including President Martelly who have been accused of holding dual nationality, which is disallowed for public officials. These accusations resurfaced again during the Senate's debate of Lamothe's nomination.
Senator Steven Benoit, one of Martelly's most prominent critics, argued that Lamothe was barred from the position because he has not lived in Haiti for the past five years, and only began paying his taxes after his nomination.
"Laurent Lamothe is not eligible to be prime minister," said Benoit. "And there are senators in the room who know he's not eligible."