Commentary: The challenges of governing Haiti

Since his recent inauguration, Haitian President Michel Martelly has been a whirlwind of activity, traveling around the country in private helicopters to reassure Haiti’s exhausted people that his new government means well. The president’s visibility is a welcome change from the style of his predecessor, but it’s time for him to make the transition from campaigning to governing.

The overriding need is to put a functioning government in place. Former Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive resigned, as expected, when Mr. Martelly took office. Since then, the government has been on auto-pilot. Outgoing ministers don’t know who inherits their portfolios and are hesitant to make a deal, sign a legal document or make action involving the routine chores of government.

Meanwhile, the hurricane season starts next week and the international community is ready to move on various fronts as soon as it has a domestic governing partner that can inspire confidence. Haiti has no time to waste.

Then there is the not-so-small matter of new constitutional provisions passed with great fanfare by Haiti’s parliament. One provision bestowed dual nationality on Haitians living overseas. Haitians in South Florida and elsewhere have been clamoring for this for years. But a dispute over the parliamentary process cast the reforms into doubt. Mr. Martelly needs to resolve this issue.

Mr. Martelly has some good ideas. This week, he spoke again of imposing a small tax on remittances and using that money to send an additional 500,000 students to school by September. That’s an ambitious goal, probably impossible in the limited time frame, yet surely needed.

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