According to countryaah, Haiti is America’s poorest country. An estimated 60% of the population lives in great poverty (World Bank 2014). According to the same source, the proportion living in extreme poverty is 23.9%. Percentages are far greater in rural poverty than in urban areas.
Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. The economic difference between the two countries is very large, both in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) and annual GDP growth. There is a difference that is huge and is constantly growing. The economic difference between the two countries is among the largest in the world between two neighboring countries.
The UN Living Conditions Index for 2014 places Haiti in a 168th place in the world, with an expected life expectancy of 63.1 years and below five years of average schooling (figures from 2012). When it comes to social inequality, Haiti is ranked 6th in the world by the UN (2014), which means that Haiti is not only poor compared to other countries, there are also very large internal differences.
Gross domestic product in 2014 was estimated at approximately USD 1800 per capita, one of the world’s lowest, and clearly the lowest in the region. The next US country on the same list is Honduras, with $ 4700 per capita.
Trade sanctions and cancellation of all foreign aid following the 1991 military coup until 1994 had a devastating effect on the economy. High unemployment combined with high inflation hit the population hard. At the same time, the country is subject to a strict restructuring program for reforms in the economy by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Agriculture is the second most important trade route and accounted for around 38% of employment in 2014, according to the service industry (50.4% in 2010). This is a decrease of 22 percentage points for agriculture compared to figures from 2001. At that time, agriculture accounted for over 60% of employment. Agriculture suffers from low productivity, and much of the land is not cultivable. This is due to both Haiti’s mountainous topography and the fact that the earth is divided into very small units and only simple tools are used. Coffee is the most important agricultural product. Essential oil for use in cosmetics and medicines is also produced for export.
For their own consumption, bananas, corn, sweet potatoes and rice are grown. Sugarcane is grown for the production of sugar and alcohol. Sisal hemp is produced for export and for the production of ropes. However, the cultivation of both sugar cane and sisal hemp has gone down since farmers have needed more land for food production.
The use of charcoal as the country’s most important fuel source has led to the cutting of the country’s forests. Deforestation has been known as a major problem, and a common estimate has been that only between 1% and 4% of the country’s area was covered by forest. This has compounded the problems with soil erosion. Still in 2015 deforestation is a major problem for the country, but we now know that the most dramatic estimates are no longer correct. Around 30% of the country is more likely to be covered by forests. This does not change the fact that Haiti is experiencing major problems as a result of deforestation, but that only between 1 – 4% of the country has forests must be considered a myth.
Haiti saw industry growth of around 4% in 2014, an indicator that outperforms most other living conditions indicators for the country. An unstable political situation has long been an obstacle to foreign investment, and at the same time the conditions for the employees have been subject to heavy international criticism.
Almost all industry is located in or near Port-au-Prince. Its share of GDP was 20% in 2014 and employed about 11.5% of the working population. The main industrial industries are the production of food, textiles, leather goods and footwear, plastic and rubber products.
The country’s most important trading partner is the United States, followed by the neighboring Dominican Republic. Since 1965, foreign trade has produced large deficits. The US-led trade sanctions in 1991-94 contributed to a significant reduction in both export and import value. When the sanctions were lifted, the economic value of imports was more than three times the value of exports.
In 2001, lighter industrial products, coffee and essential oils were the most important export goods. Food (and live animals) accounted for 22% of the import value that year. Machinery and transport equipment and fossil fuels (petroleum) were also the most important import goods.
The country’s most important trading partner for imports is the neighboring Dominican Republic, but in recent years (2013 – 2015) there have been regular disturbances in the important border trade as a result of the sometimes poor conditions between the two countries in between.
Transport and Communications
The road network outside the capital Port-au-Prince has slowly but surely been rebuilt after the earthquake in 2010, including in collaboration with Dominican builders. In 2012, Michel Martelly’s government undertook a major upgrade of the road network, a work in progress (December 2015).
At the capital is an international airport; Toussaint Louverture International Airport, which after being damaged in the 2010 earthquake, reopened in 2012.
The main port city is Port-au-Prince, which handles 60% of foreign trade; other port cities are Cap Haïtien on the north coast, Les Cayes and Jacmel on the south coast.