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Haiti to increase taxes for new education fund

Tuesday, October 09, 2012    

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said Monday the earthquake-ravaged, French speaking Caribbean country is hoping to increase taxes to raise US$100 million in making “a big difference in the education system.”

Lamothe said the lower chamber of deputies has already approved the creation of the National Education Fund, adding that the government is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

In approving the fund’s creation, Haitian lawmakers would be agreeing to a government-imposed surcharge on the sales of alcohol, tobacco and a recently re-launched national lottery, as well as a two per cent take on the profits at a state-owned bank, BNC.

The prime minister said the money would go into the special education fund regulated by a board of directors and used to finance the construction of 200 schools, refurbishing of 2,000, and training and salary increases for thousands of teachers from primary school to state-owned universities.

“In Haiti, 70 per cent of the teachers have not completed sixth grade. We need to train the teachers, and that is a US$23 million programme,” Lamothe told reporters here.

“We’re very focused on increasing revenue. Whether it’s taxes, whether it’s illegal smuggling, whether it’s border control,” he added, noting that of Haiti’s annual US$3 billion budget, the country only generates about US$1 billion.

Lamothe said the education fund is part of President Michel Martelly’s goal of sending more Haitian children to school tuition-free.

He said the programme would raise about US$144 million over five years and have non-government oversight.

“Because of the surcharge, we were able to include 1.2 million children in the free school program,” Lamothe said, disclosing that 200,000 children were added this year alone. “We are very satisfied with what it has brought us so far.”

He said the newly-launched National Education Fund would be in addition to the regulatory charges, which also help Haiti to improve the quality of education.

“I’m focused on the 10 million people. I am looking at the numbers every day. I am looking at the people who have not been able to eat, people we need to teach how to read and write,” Lamothe said. “That’s what I am focusing on.”

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