But Laurent Lamothe, a close friend and former business associate of President Michel Martelly, also is a political novice who officially took over the second toughest job in Haiti on Wednesday as he and his 21-member Cabinet were sworn-in.
“I have the ambition of working and being the prime minister that takes care of the people’s needs,’’ Lamothe, 39, told The Miami Herald. “In Haiti … you have to focus on tomorrow, and make sure tomorrow is better than today.”
And that work begins immediately said Lamothe, announcing a massive street clean-up, road improvements and increased security measures. The makeover will be combined with several new reforms he plans to send parliament, he added.
“We have four years to develop this country,” said Lamothe, who never goes anywhere without his iPad. “We have to get moving.”
The swearing-in marked a new chapter for Lamothe and Martelly, who ended the first year of his five-year presidential term Monday. That same day, Haitian lawmakers completed the final steps to ratify a new government. With parliament and Martelly at loggerheads, many hope this “fresh start” is what post-earthquake Haiti needs to rebuild. Until now, the political bickering has stalled reconstruction and delayed political progress.
“At some point the two branches have to grow up and decide if you want to have an effective government,” said Robert Fatton, a Haiti expert at the University of Virginia. “Then there has to be some common ground, and so far there is no common ground.”
Fourth in line
Lamothe was Martelly’s fourth pick, and the second prime minister to be ratified by parliament in six months. Former Prime Minister Garry Conille resigned after only four months amid friction with Martelly. In the nearly three months leading up to his ratification, Lamothe has reached out across the political divide, courting politicians and members of the formal business community. He preaches inclusion and breaking the political gridlock.
“We don’t have any other choice,” Lamothe said after his regular morning workout with a personal trainer at his home in Turgeau, one of Port-au-Prince’s oldest residential neighborhoods. “It is the same fight. It’s the fight to reduce inequalities, it’s the fight to bring better living conditions to the most vulnerable and it’s a fight to bring the country out of this cycle of misery and instability that has plagued it for so long.”
Long the go-to guy in Martelly’s inner-circle for some foreign diplomats, Lamothe is viewed as a “deliverer” and “determined doer” who offers sage advice to the president even if he doesn’t always follow it, according to insiders.
While acknowledging that he may not be the best qualified politically for the job, the international community says he’s the last chance for Martelly to make progress.
Still, as foreign minister, a post he’s keeping, Lamothe has ruffled diplomatic feathers with his outreach to leftist governments in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
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