Since the demise of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, international economists have urged Haiti to reform and modernize its economy. Under President Preval, the country's economic agenda has included trade/tariff liberalization, measures to control government expenditure and increase tax revenues, civil service downsizing, financial sector reform, and the modernization of state-owned enterprises through their sale to private investors, the provision of private sector management contracts, or joint public-private investment. Structural adjustment agreements with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and other international financial institutions are aimed at creating necessary conditions for private sector growth, have proved only partly successful.
In the aftermath of the 1994 restoration of constitutional governance, Haitian officials have indicated their commitment to economic reform through the implementation of sound fiscal and monetary policies and the enactment of legislation mandating the modernization of state-owned enterprises. A council to guide the modernization program (CMEP) was established and a timetable was drawn up to modernize nine key parastatals. Although the state-owned flour mill and cement plants have been transferred to private owners, progress on the other seven parastatals has stalled. The modernization of Haiti's state-enterprises remains a controversial political issue in Haiti.
External aid is essential to the future economic development of Haiti, the least-developed country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Comparative social and economic indicators show Haiti falling behind other low-income developing countries (particularly in the hemisphere) since the 1980s. Haiti's economic stagnation is the result of earlier inappropriate economic policies, political instability, a shortage of good arable land, environmental deterioration, continued use of traditional technologies, under-capitalization and lack of public investment in human resources, migration of large portions of the skilled population, and a weak national savings rate.
Haiti continues to suffer the consequences of the 1991 coup and the irresponsible economic and financial policies of the de facto authorities greatly accelerated Haiti's economic decline. Following the coup, the United States adopted mandatory sanctions, and the OAS instituted voluntary sanctions aimed at restoring constitutional government. International sanctions culminated in the May 1994 UN embargo of all goods entering Haiti except humanitarian supplies, such as food and medicine. The assembly sector, heavily dependent on U.S. markets for its products, employed nearly 80,000 workers in the mid-1980s. During the embargo, employment fell from 33,000 workers in 1991 to 400 in October 1994. Private domestic and foreign investment has been slow to return to Haiti. Since the return of constitutional rule, assembly sector employment has gradually recovered with over 20,000 now employed, but further growth has been stalled by investor concerns over safety and supply reliability.
If the political situation stabilizes, high crime levels reduce, and new investment increases, tourism could take its place next to export-oriented manufacturing (the assembly sector) as a potential source of foreign exchange. Remittances from abroad now constitute a significant source of financial support for many Haitian households.
Workers in Haiti are guaranteed the right of association. Unionization is protected by the labor code. A legal minimum wage of 36 gourds a day (about U.S. $1.80) applies to most workers in the formal sector.
U.S. Economic and Development Assistance
Political insecurity and the failure of Haiti's governments to invest in developing the country's natural and human resources attribute significantly to the country's current state of underdevelopment. U.S. efforts to strengthen democracy and to rebuild Haiti's economy aim to rectify this condition. The U.S. has been Haiti's largest donor since 1973. Between FY 95 and FY 99, the U.S. has contributed roughly $884 million in assistance to Haiti. These funds have been used to support programs that have addressed a variety of problems. Among the initiatives funds have supported are:
- Food assistance programs that include a school lunch program that feeds around 500,000 children daily.
- Agricultural development programs that have endeavored to revitalize Haiti's coffee sector and to help thousands of Haitian farmers adopt sustainable agricultural practices and protect the environment.
- Teacher training programs that have included 6,000 educators at the primary and secondary level.
- Population programs that have expanded modern family planning practices in many rural areas.
- Health care programs that have supported child immunization and have helped provide primary care to nearly half of the Haitian population.
In addition to financial support, the U.S. provides human resources. U.S. Peace Corps volunteers returned to Haiti in 1995, largely focusing their efforts on income generation programs in Haiti's rural areas. Many private U.S. citizens travel regularly to Haiti or reside there for extended periods to work in humanitarian projects.
Haiti has been plagued for decades by extremely high unemployment and underemployment. The precipitous decline in urban assembly sector jobs, from a high of 80,000 in 1986 to fewer than 17,000 in 1994, exacerbated the scarcity of jobs. To revitalize the economy, U.S. assistance has attempted to create opportunities for stable sustainable employment for the growing population, particularly those who comprise the country's vast informal economy. A post-intervention transitional program of short-term job creation principally in small towns and rural areas provided employment to as many as 50,000 workers per day throughout the country. More recently, programs that help to increase commercial bank lending to small- and medium-scale entrepreneurs, especially in the agricultural sector, have helped to create jobs and foster economic growth.
Additional U.S. efforts in economic revitalization include the establishment of the U.S.-Haiti Business Development Council, an Overseas Private Investment Corporation commercial loan program, and inclusion of Haiti within the Caribbean Basin Initiative. These efforts all provide greater market opportunities for American and Haitian businesses. Current Congressional prohibitions on providing assistance to or through the Haitian Government has accelerated the move to private voluntary agencies as contractors to oversee use of U.S. aid funds.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $9.2 billion (1999 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 2.4% (1999 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $1,340 (1999 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
services: 48% (1998 est.)
Population below poverty line: 80% (1998 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 9% (1999 est.)
3.6 million (1995)
note: shortage of skilled labor, unskilled labor abundant (1998)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 66%, services 25%, industry 9%
Unemployment rate: 70%; widespread underemployment; more than two-thirds of the labor force do not have formal jobs (1999)
revenues: $323 million
expenditures: $363 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY97/98 est.)
Industries: sugar refining, flour milling, textiles, cement, tourism, light assembly industries based on imported parts
Industrial production growth rate: 0.6% (1997 est.)
Electricity - production: 728 million kWh (1998)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 55.63%
other: 2.75% (1998)
Electricity - consumption: 677 million kWh (1998)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1998)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1998)
Agriculture - products: coffee, mangoes, sugarcane, rice, corn, sorghum; wood
Exports: $322 million (f.o.b., 1999)
Exports - commodities: manufactures, coffee, oils, mangoes
Exports - partners: US 86%, EU 11% (1998)
Imports: $762 million (c.i.f., 1999)
Imports - commodities: food, machinery and transport equipment, fuels
Imports - partners: US 60%, EU 12% (1998)
Debt - external: $1 billion (1997 est.)
Economic aid - recipient: $730.6 million (1995)
Currency: 1 gourde (G) = 100 centimes
Exchange rates: gourdes (G) per US$1 - 18.262 (January 2000), 17.965 (1999), 16.505 (1998), 17.311 (1997), 15.093 (1996), 16.160 (1995)
Fiscal year: 1 October - 30 September