According to COUNTRYAAH, Haiti is one of America’s poorest countries and highly dependent on financial aid from the United States, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Agriculture is characterized by very low productivity and extremely unequal ownership conditions. More than half the country is owned by 4 percent of the growers, while most farmers have less than one acre. Haiti is far from self-sufficient in food. Despite large food imports, malnutrition is widespread. The economic importance of coffee has diminished in the 2000s, but is still an important export commodity. Other important export crops are sugar and sisal, and the most important staple crop is maize, with which Haiti is normally self-sufficient. In the early 1900s, a large part of Haiti was covered with forests, but the increasing population pressure has meant that almost all of the forest has been felled for use as building materials or fuel, which has led to extensive degradation.
In 2010, the capital Port-au-Prince was hit by a powerful earthquake and nearly 225,000 people were killed. The city and the country have still not recovered from this disaster. The situation worsened further in 2012 when the country was hit by tropical cyclone Sandy.
The country’s industry, which employs 11 percent of the workforce, consists of home-market consumer goods industry and production for export to mainly the United States of clothing and electrical products. Foreign (mainly American) companies were attracted to Haiti in the 1980s by low wages, tax benefits and free profit taking. However, as a result of the 1991 trade embargo against Haiti, many of the companies had to be closed down. Agricultural commodities dominate exports, but the importance of industrial products has increased. Imports, which normally exceed exports, consist mainly of food, oil products and machinery. The United States is the dominant trading partner.
Finance and security
Haiti has a very poorly developed economy, and the country is considered to be the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Much of the reason for this is a very challenging security situation.
The UN’s Human Development Report for 2016 ranks Haiti as the 163. country in the world when it comes to human living conditions, and the country is in the lowest category for development. Indicators of poverty, extreme poverty and illiteracy all show that Haiti is outperforming any other country in America.
Economic growth and debt
High government debt and widespread corruption contribute to a sustained economic imbalance. In 2009, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decided to erase 80 percent of Haiti’s debt because the country had met the fund’s demands for economic reform and poverty reduction measures. However, this had no immediate consequences for the population; real unemployment was estimated at 70 percent at the same time. However, this figure does not reflect real employment, as a high proportion of the population work in the informal economy.
Haiti, like a number of other Caribbean countries, has invested heavily in tourism, and saw a significant increase in visitor numbers in the period 2005–2015. This despite the fact that the country in 2008 was ranked as the world’s fourth most dangerous destination, after Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, however, the situation has improved significantly. In 2014, a record 465,000 tourists visited Haiti according to the World Bank, and according to the WTTC, the contribution of travelers and tourists as a share of GDP nearly quadrupled between 2005 and 2015. The country still faces major infrastructure challenges, and in 2016, Hurricane Matthew made even greater damage.
- According to AllCityPopulation, the capital city of Haiti is Port-au-Prince with a population of 2.6 million in the metropolitan area (estimate 2017). Other major cities include Gonaïves with a population of 324,000 inv, Port-de-Paix with a population of 306,000, Cap-Haïtien with a population of 250,000, Saint-Marc with a population of 242,000 (2017 estimate).
From 2004 to 2017, the UN stabilization force MINUSTAH was deployed to Haiti. MINUSTAH was created after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was removed from power after a period of riots in the country, and the goal was to contribute to peace and order and to assist the Haitians in the subsequent presidential election. The UN force was found to be the source of an extensive cholera outbreak in 2010, and has been accused of various types of abuse against the local population, and not to ensure the safety of the local population. MINUSTA has been followed by the significantly smaller United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).
One of the more peripheral tasks of the UN forces was border control against neighboring Dominican Republic. In the spring of 2018, Haiti established its own border police, PoliFront – a step towards greater Haitian control over the border areas.