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A SPECIAL SECTION: Haiti, Since the January 12, 2010 Fierce Earthquake

Posted Wednesday, April 27, 2011 

Cost of telephone calls to Haiti to go upward as nation's Martelly seeks urgently needed new taxes to help schools

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) Haiti's president-elect announced Tuesday that he intends to impose taxes on money transfers and international cellphone calls to help finance schools across the chronically impoverished country.

Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, who last week was declared the official winner of a March 20 presidential runoff but will not take office until May 14, said Haiti's three telecommunication companies have agreed to charge an additional 5 cents a minute to help bankroll schools.

The levy on international phone calls with companies Digicel, Voila and Haitel would raise roughly $36 million annually, Martelly said. The program, he added, would take effect June 1 if lawmakers approve the plan.

During campaigning, Martelly pledged to ensure that all children in Haiti receive a free education. Haitian parents now spend the bulk of their salaries on education but few of their children learn much because the quality of schools is considered so dismal.

Martelly said his government will also approach money transfer businesses to see if they would agree to donate a dollar for each remittance sent to Haiti to help fund schools. He also said that restructuring Haiti's popular lottery might generate income for bettering education. He disclosed few details of these proposals, however.

Martelly's education plans were unveiled at a press conference as international election observers sift through contested results for 19 legislative races from the March 20 runoff.

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince and the United Nations expressed concerns over discrepancies between the final results released last week and preliminary results released April 4. The new results showed that candidates in 19 races received thousands of votes that they didn't have in the initial results, and expanded the presence of Haiti's ruling Unity party in parliament.

Martelly, a first-time politician who won 67 percent of the vote in the country's presidential elections, is not a member of Unity.

Martelly has called for an investigation into the reversals but said little on the matter Tuesday.

"The vote of the population should be respected," he said. "We can't build democracy with a stolen election."

(This version CORRECTS day of announcement to Tuesday instead of Monday. )

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