Mr. Loredant and Mr. Rosenthal’s mission to Canada took place as part of the Haiti Digitalization of Land Registry Project (PIRFH), which is managed by Haiti’s tax agency, the Direction générale des impôts (DGI) and receives technical support from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the City of Montreal with funding from Global Affairs Canada (GAC).
In this interview, Deputy Director General Lubonheur Loredant and Director Serge Rosenthal Jr of the Direction générale des impôts (DGI) explain how , by creating a digital land registry and modernizing systems used for tax collection purposes, the DGI improved the country’s performance in the areas of land registration and conservation, and increased in a transparent manner the revenues collected by the municipalities with a view to delivering more services to the population. They also show us the links between PIRFH and another GAC-funded initiative, the Haiti-Canada Municipal Cooperation Program – Phase 2 (PCM2), which is run by the FCM, the City of Montreal and the Union des Municipalités du Québec.
What is the nature of your partnership with the FCM and the City of Montreal?
Mr. Loredant: The Direction générale des impôts is central to the projects being carried out with the FCM and the City of Montreal. As part of the Registre d’inventaire territorial actualisé—the updated territorial inventory register, or RITA—we are developing a new instrument that will enable local governments to collect taxes more efficiently and establish relationships of trust between taxpayers and their town, and between the DGI and city halls.
This support and cooperation allow us to showcase best practices and technology to support tax mobilization. With the RITA pilot project we are implementing with PIRFH in the commune of Kenscoff, we are showing that, with new online payment and filing systems, for example, we are able to identify taxpayers and collect the funds that make it possible to deliver services to taxpayers. Efficient city halls and good governance will help the population to benefit from better quality services. Canada is providing us with excellent guidance, and we are seeing significant progress.
Mr. Rosenthal: I think that today, with our Canadian partners and the DGI, we have created an exceptional synergy, and the resulting environment is ideal for fostering Haiti’s short- and long-term development.
The DGI works with many external partners. What is the added value of your collaboration with the FCM and the City of Montreal?
Mr. Loredant: Thanks to this successful collaboration with our Canadian partners, we are able to attract other funders, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Canadian aid therefore generates positive spin-offs and a significant return on investment.
Mr. Rosenthal: Our projects with the FCM and the City of Montreal are very important to us. We focused on a segment of tax revenue that was under-exploited, the tax revenue derived from built properties. We will now be able to use these revenues more effectively and transparently.
What progress has been made to date?
Mr. Loredant: Prior to embarking on these projects, property taxes accounted for only 3% of total government revenues. This was due to a lack of information on property titles, as well as to outdated systems. Today, thanks to the support of the FCM and the City of Montreal, we are seeing constant progress, especially in the Les Palmes area, on communal issues and in particular on collaboration between the state, represented by the DGI, and the municipalities. We have more than doubled our contribution. More importantly, the funds collected are visible and known, as are municipalities’ expenses. Citizen committees have been created and have a right of oversight over all activities, both in terms of revenues and expenditures. This has helped to create trust between the city halls and taxpayers. We are now moving on to the next step, which is to work with the municipalities to ensure that tax laws and regulations are well understood.
What are the next steps?
Mr. Rosenthal: Now we are preparing to take things further. We have carried out pilot projects in the Les Palmes area within the framework of PCM2. RITA, in conjunction with PIRFH, then used a better methodological approach and digitalization through geomatics to improve the projects, which we are ready to deploy on a larger scale. The automatic distribution of payment slips and the creation of an electronic portal, for example, are elements that we want to roll out on a larger scale.
Challenges remain, including the lack of street addresses in several areas. This represents a risk not only to city hall finances and land use planning, but also to public safety. We are working to remedy this situation. We also need to make people aware of the importance of paying their taxes. They expect a lot from their municipalities in terms of services, so they must understand that it is also their responsibility to contribute.
Mr. Loredant: Our collaboration with Canada has led to intelligent cooperation among the various stakeholders. There is better coordination of activities, and we have been able to improve the image of the DGI and position it as modern and efficient. We have a great partnership, and we are instigating a change that will have lasting impacts.