Haiti

Region: Caribbean

Capital: Port-au-Prince

Population: 10,123,800 (UNDP 2011)

Surface area: 27,750 sq km

Currency: gourde (HTG)

GDP per capita: Purchasing power parity US $1,200 (2011 CIA est.)

Background

The native Taino Amerindians – who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by Columbus in 1492 – were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola, and in 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean, but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti’s nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L’Ouverture. After a prolonged struggle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare its independence in 1804. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. After an armed rebellion led to the forced resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, an interim government took office to organize new elections under the auspices of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Continued violence and technical delays prompted repeated postponements, but Haiti finally did inaugurate a democratically elected president and parliament in May of 2006.

 

Economy – Overview

Haiti is a free market economy that enjoys the advantages of low labor costs and tariff-free access to the US for many of its exports. Poverty, corruption, and poor access to education for much of the population are among Haiti’s most serious disadvantages. Haiti’s economy suffered a severe setback in January 2010 when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of its capital city, Port-au-Prince, and neighboring areas. Already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty, the earthquake inflicted $7.8 billion in damage and caused the country’s GDP to contract 5.4% in 2010. Following the earthquake, Haiti received $4.59 billion in internatioonal pledges for reconstruction, which has proceeded slowly. Two-fifths of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country’s widespread deforestation. US economic engagement under the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act, passed in December 2006, has boosted apparel exports and investment by providing duty-free access to the US. Congress voted in 2010 to extend the legislation until 2020 under the Haitian Economic Lift Act (HELP); the apparel sector accounts for about 90% of Haitian exports and nearly one-tenth of GDP. Remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, equaling nearly 20% of GDP and more than twice the earnings from exports. Haiti suffers from a lack of investment, partly because of limited infrastructure and a lack of security. In 2005, Haiti paid its arrears to the World Bank, paving the way for reengagement with the Bank. Haiti received debt forgiveness for over $1 billion through the Highly-Indebted Poor Country initiative in mid-2009. The remainder of its outstanding external debt was cancelled by donor countries following the 2010 earthquake but has since risen to over $600 million. The government relies on formal international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability, with over half of its annual budget coming from outside sources. The MARTELLY administration in 2011 launched a campaign aimed at drawing foreign investment into Haiti as a means for sustainable development. (CIA,2012)

Major Export Commodities: apparel, manufactures, oils, cocoa, mangoes, coffee

Remittances: US 1,571 million USD (World Bank 2011 est.)

Human Development Index 2011 ranking: 158 out of 187 countries (UNDP 2011)

Official Development Assistance and Major Development Partners: Net ODA US $3076 million. Major development partners include: United States, IDB Sp. Fund, IDA (OECD 2010)

Total External Debt: US $630.2 million (December 2011 CIA est.)

Life Expectancy At Birth: 62.1

Environmental Indicators:

                                               Endangered Species (as a % of all species): 19

                                               Forested Area (percentage of land area): 3.7

                                               CO2 Emissions(tonnes per capita): 0.3

                                               (Data Source: UNDP, 2011)

United Nations membership date: 24 October 1945

New York Mission:
Permanent Mission of Haiti to the United Nations
801 Second Avenue, Room 600
New York, N.Y.10017USA
Telephone: 212-370-4840
Fax: 212-661-8698. 
Website:www.un.int/wcm/content/site/haiti

Sources:

CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. www.cia.gov

World Development Indicators. World Bank www.worldbank.org

Development, Recipient Aid Charts. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. www.oecd.org

Human Development Report 2011.United Nations Development Programme. www.undp.org

 

Updated July 2012