|Haiti Background Report
Anthony Diaz, Ashley Trapp, Annie Feldman
What is Development? 2
Values Foundation 2
Theoretical Foundation 2
Political Instability in Haiti 4
Haiti’s political instability and regime changes have hindered economic growth by causing the government to be incapable of implementing policies or even lasting long enough to devise economic policies. The amount of regime changes in Haiti over the last few decades were the greatest number in Latin America and South America; Argentina trailed Haiti’s number of regime changes slightly with 50 compared to Haiti’s 66 regime changes. 5
Our Definition 5
How unequal is Haiti today? 6
Where did inequality come from? 9
The Human side of Haitian Development 10
Geography and Agriculture 12
Key Areas of Development 13
Food and Imports 13
Political Instability 18
NGOs Currently in Operation 19
The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive assessment of Haiti’s economic and social progress since the mid 20th century. This assessment will show that the country has failed to progress economically, as evidenced most clearly by stagnation in the real Gross Domestic Product and continued high unemployment. Haiti’s acute social ills, which complete the picture of a country that is experiencing minute development will be illustrated by political instability, low literacy rates, lack of basic yet essential infrastructure, a spreading HIV problem, infant mortality, poverty and hunger.
What is Development?
Human development and improved quality of life is crucial in our definition of the nation’s development due to a moral foundation that all people have the natural born right to live a healthy and meaningful life. Without a genuine sense of well-being and self-respect, Haiti’s people will have little motivation to create new opportunities and improve their lives. Economic development should not be the singular goal but the necessary path to other avenues of social development and progress.
The theoretical foundations in our definition of development include theories of development such as modernization theory, dependency theory, world systems theory, and state theory. Although each theory possesses its own set of different and sometimes conflicting underlying values, each plays a role in determining what development does and does not include. Modernization theory emphasizes that modernization can be achieved through emulating the previously followed paths to development by established developed nations. Haiti cannot develop by simply emulating any developed western nation due to the fact that Haiti has its own unique history, geography, culture, and problems. In order to develop, Haiti must devise a specific plan to address all aspects of its distinctive needs. The relative prosperity of the Dominican Republic motivates the emulation of the neighboring country. The stark comparison only highlights the weaknesses in Haiti. Dependency theory explains that as long as the Third World is linked to the north they could never break free of their dependence and poverty1. Consequently, Haiti depends on the United States for 80% of its exports and 46.5% of its imports. 2 The perpetual link to western countries began as early as 1697 when Haiti became a colony of France and dependent on French economy, policy, and rulers; Haiti did not gain independence until1804. 3 World Systems theory describes how periphery countries such as Haiti are exploited through the semi-periphery by the core. The inequality in Haiti which emerges from the unequal distribution of labor and exchange is caused by a concentration of wealth in the global North. Haiti must find a unique development plan which can allow the country to act as a self-sustaining system, one which is benefited by outward relations, not hindered by them. Finally, State Theory supports the fact that Haiti’s political instability must be eradicated in order for the country to provide an atmosphere for sustainable economic growth. After the tumultuous dictatorship of Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier ended in the early 1970s, the government switched hands multiple times before Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president in 1990. 4 Consequently, small economic elite has supported a ‘predatory state’ that has made only negligible investments in human resources and basic infrastructure.5
One of the main concerns which could prevent the adoption of a given development policy or could undermine the success of a new policy is the level of government corruption combined with social hostility. In the late 1800s and early 1900s there were twenty two regimes changes which occurred through violent coups. The constant government replacements make it impossible to have sustainable policies through regime changes. Even if a developmental policy is adopted by a particular administration, there is a very high probability that if a coup occurs the new government will throw out all previously existing policies. The large amount of violence which accompanies coups prevents the people from having faith in their government and, consequently, their government’s policies. The violence causes citizens to feel unsafe in their own country causing them tentative in playing an active role in government due the lack of transparency. Also, Haiti is considered one of the most corrupt nations in the world which brings into question how funds for developmental projects would be handled by the government. The level of corruption discourages all types of investment which is imperative for growth of the financial sector which is crucial in achieving sustainability.