The question, why is Haiti so poor” is depressing. The country, pre-independence, was doing so well economically and was the envy of other countries the world over. The people of Haiti have fantastic spirits and work ethics. The country also has a population size of over 11 million people. But a lot of things have been hindering the country’s progress.
So, why is Haiti poor?
Many factors are responsible for impoverishing this tiny island nation. Firstly, French rule has a hand. After the revolution, which gave Haiti its independence, the French and other European allies teamed up to force Haiti to pay indemnities to the slave owners, which the government accepted. The payment went on for years, and that affected the country economically. Failure to pay means the New Haiti will not be recognized by France, the United States, and Europe. Natural disasters and corruption are also significant contributors. The region has experienced a series of natural disasters, attributed to deforestation and poor management of the country’s resources.
The reasons Haiti is so impoverished are not things we can squeeze into one paragraph. So, continue reading for more details on why the region is still poor.
Haiti – Location, Language And People
If you understand a little or much about the history of Haiti, you will wonder why it’s still the poorest countries, as far as the Western Hemisphere is concerned. The country has everything it takes to be on the map as one of the wealthiest countries in the world today. But mismanagement of resources, natural disasters, and other challenges has crippled the country economically.
Well, let’s talk a little about the location of Haiti.
Haiti sits in the Caribbean Sea. The country also boasts some lovely sites and must-see tourist attractions. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are the only two countries sharing a land border. They share Hispaniola Island, too.
The country is located west and south of the Dominican Republic and the Island of Cuba, respectively. Haiti is located in the North American continent and has a population size of over 11 million.
The population size might seem a bit small compared to other countries. But for the records, Haiti is the second most populous nation you will find in the Caribbean. The island nation occupies a total landmass of 27,750 kilometers, too.
The Economic Status Of Haiti Before The Misery
By the way, before we start talking about how impoverished Haiti is and factors that contributed to the country’s misery; let’s talk about Haiti’s economic situation before the end of French rule.
Was Haiti an emerging country before the revolution? Not at all! So, you can see why the country’s current economic misery is worth discussing and why it is unique not only to Haitians but the world over.
Well, you might be conversant with the title, “The Jewel of the Antilles.” It was what Haiti was once called. During that time, Haiti was on top in terms of economic boom. In short, it stood as the wealthiest and most productive colony the world over.
The riches Haiti had before independence made the nation a envy to other countries. According to economists, during the 1750s, the island nation contributed massively to the French’s GNP (Gross National Product). Their contribution was as high as 50 percent, which shows how rich and economically stable the country was.
Numerous items were exported from Haiti. These include major crops and exotic products like cocoa, sugar, coffee, dye indigo, and even tobacco. The products were also shipped to France in their raw state, refined and sold to other European countries.
So, the question is how did Haiti moved from plenty to an almost economically barren country? What made Haiti, “The jewel of the Antilles,” to become the poorest in the Caribbean?
I understand how hard it must be for Haitians to compare their past and present economic conditions. It hurts profoundly dealing with the menace called poverty. Life becomes unbearable, and the future might look oblique. But everything that has a beginning surely has an ending. So, there is hope for Haitians. The country will one day reclaim its former glory and become the envy of other countries.
Factors Responsible For Haiti’s Poor State
It is impossible or somewhat challenging to solve a problem without knowing the cause of the problem. So, let’s take a look at the factors that contributed to or are adding to Haiti’s economic woes.
The invasion of the colonial masters – the French.
The thought about how slavery was operated in Haiti is depressing. Haitians captured and used as slaves by the French invaders, were subjected to hard labor and diverse forms of cruelty. The slaves worked long hours and under inhuman conditions.
Even though Haiti recorded high productivity during the era of slavery, the system of slavery practiced pre-independence left an indelible mark in the nation that would take years to erase.
Shockingly, the system of slavery in Haiti was termed the most brutal in the whole of the Caribbean. Another noteworthy point is that the idea of forced labor didn’t end when the French colonial masters left the country. That system and idea were passed on to the native Haitians, the elites.
During the period of the French rule, one thing the slave owners did to inspire the slaves to be more productive was to offer them their freedom in exchange for high productivity. The system worked perfectly, but only a handful of slaves were able to match the high work standard and productivity.
However, following a revolution led by Haitians in 1804, to put an end to French rule, Haiti started the journey to become one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean. The revolution damaged a greater part of the country. Additionally, the international community felt the way Haiti forcefully gained its independence could send a wrong signal across their strongholds in other countries.
However, this forced the international community not to recognize Haiti. Thus, to gain recognition after the independence, Haiti paid indemnities for the lands and properties belonging to slave owners.
This debt imposed on Haitians by the French government at that time impacted the island nation’s economy severely. The Haitian government was bent on gaining recognition, so obliged to pay. Consequently, Haiti focused on clearing the debt, which lasted for decades, instead of focusing on growing the economy.
Massive corruption in the land
Corruption is like a deadly virus that has plagued most black nations the world over. It is also almost like a norm in the African continent and was also among the primary factors that crippled Haiti’s economy and made the island nation more miserable, economically.
The elites were and till today, are like vipers, keeping the wealth of the nation to themselves. Many developed countries and reputable bodies have tried to help the country in diverse forms. But unfortunately, the aid meant to alleviate the suffering of the people doesn’t get to the masses.
So, one reason Haiti has remained a poor country is the massive corruption going on in the tiny island nation. And until this virus called corruption is wiped off, it will be difficult for the country to realize its true potentials.
Sadly, there is a massive human rights violation in the land. Those who criticized or opposed the government are dealt with severely. Most of them were killed, arrested, and also forced into exile
The impact of Mother Nature
Haiti has been struck by Mother Nature, over and over again. These natural disasters have caused severe damage to the country, economically and otherwise. The natural disaster is also attributed to deforestation and poor management of the nation’s resources, pre, and post-independence.
Here’s an account of how natural disaster has ravaged the country post-independence.
In the year 2010, Haiti was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that claimed over 300,000 lives and rendered thousands of people homeless and helpless.
Two years after, in 2012, the country experienced another Hurricane. Then in 2016, Haiti experienced another Hurricane called Hurricane Mathew. It was one of the strongest Hurricanes the country has had in years.
Now, how have these natural disasters contributed to poverty in Haiti?
Firstly, many farmers have lost their source of livelihood. The natural disasters have kicked many of them out of business. It has also impeded infrastructural development.
Furthermore, most of the clothes that are sold at reputable companies like JCPenney, Walmart, Old Navy, and Gap, are made in Haiti. So, Haiti’s garment sector is a significant contributor to the country’s economy and employs thousands of Haitians.
However, natural disasters, such as Hurricanes and flooding happening here and there, might force companies to reconsider investing in the country. Most textile companies in the country have moved to the United States of America because of this.
Nevertheless, before the natural disaster, the U.S. has been making massive efforts to support Haiti’s textile industry in diverse ways. For the record, the apparel industry represents an enormous portion of Haiti’s export and source of foreign exchange. So, everything humanly possible that can cause the sector to continue thriving is welcomed.
Why is Haiti so poor? That’s the question this post seeks to answer. You can see that the reasons this tiny island nation has remained in poverty all these years are depressing. But, there is hope for Haiti. The government and people just need to get things right. It will only take time and some drastic decisions; Haiti will realize its true potentials.