New prime minister confirmed by lawmakers in Haiti

AP News
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Posted: Nov 10, 2009 11:11 PM

Lawmakers overwhelmingly gave final approval to Jean-Max Bellerive as Haiti's new prime minister Tuesday, making him the sixth person to hold the post since 2004 in this politically unstable nation.

The Chamber of Deputies voted 70-2, with two abstentions, to back the appointment of Bellerive, who in a question-and-answer session with lawmakers earlier in the day promised to court investors and lift people out of poverty in the hemishere's poorest nation.

His credentials had already been approved by both parliamentary houses, and the Senate approved his Cabinet and plan of government Monday. Bellerive's inauguration was expected Wednesday.

Bellerive was nominated by President Rene Preval after the Senate ousted Michele Pierre-Louis on Oct. 30. She was removed after a year in office because of alleged failures to ease poverty in Haiti and help it recover from storms last year that killed hundreds and caused $1 billion in damages.

The size of Bellerive's task is clear outside the rundown legislative complex: Walls along garbage-strewn streets are covered with graffiti denouncing the government and the 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers who patrol Haiti's capital and countryside.

Bellerive has defended the previous government's efforts to build roads, install electricity and attract investment. He pledged to continue the work he did as minister of planning and external cooperation.

The change in leadership comes at a critical time.

Pierre-Louis was in the midst of courting investment efforts spurred by Bill Clinton, the recently appointed U.N. special envoy to Haiti, that some consider key to creating jobs in the deeply impoverished country.

The effort to oust Pierre-Louis was led by members of Preval's own party, some of whom criticized her for relying too much on international development plans.

Many in Haiti's business community, which hopes to take advantage of attempts to foster a business climate in the long-isolated country, have praised the ousted prime minister and also welcomed her apparent successor, who is known for his work as a business consultant.

"We definitely think he's going to do a good job because we've had prior experiences in dealing with him both in private sector as an employee and as a manager," said Youri Mevs, president of the newly formed Haitian Economic Development Foundation and managing shareholder of a new free-trade zone near the Cite Soleil slum.

Bellerive is an economist who served in the administration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was forced from office in a violent rebellion in 2004. In recent years, he has played a major role in coordinating and attracting investment and foreign aid.

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Associated Press Writer Evens Sanon contributed to this report.