Republic of Haiti
FLAG: The upper half is blue, the lower half is red.
ANTHEM: La Dessalinienne (Song of Dessalines).
MONETARY UNIT: The gourde (g) is a paper currency of 100 centimes. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, and 50 centimes and notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 250, and 500 gourdes. Silver (5, 10, and 25 gourdes) and gold (20, 50, 100, 200, 1,000 gourdes) coins have also been minted. US paper currency also circulates freely throughout Haiti. g1 = $0.02555 (or $1 = g39.14) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is official for customs purposes, but French colonial units and US weights also are used.
HOLIDAYS: Independence and New Year's Day, 1 January; Forefathers Day, 2 January; Pan American Day, 14 April; Labor Day, 1 May; Flag and University Day, 18 May; National Sovereignty Day, 22 May; Assumption, 15 August; Anniversary of the Death of Dessalines, 17 October; UN Day, 24 October; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Commemoration of the Battle of Vertières and Armed Forces Day, 18 November; Discovery of Haiti, 5 December; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Carnival (three days before Ash Wednesday) and Good Friday.
TIME: 7 am = noon GMT.
Occupying the western third of the island of Hispaniola, Haiti has an area of 27,750 sq km (10,714 sq mi) including the islands of Tortuga (La Tortue), Gonâve, Les Cayemites, and Vache. Comparatively, the area occupied by Haiti is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland. Extending roughly 485 km (300 mi) ene–wsw and 385 km (240 mi) sse–nnw, Haiti is bounded on the n by the Atlantic Ocean, on the e by the Dominican Republic, on the s by the Caribbean Sea, and on the w by the Windward Passage and the Gulf of Gonâve, with a total land boundary length of 360 km (224 mi) and a coastline of 1,771 km (1,100 mi). Haiti claims Navassa Island, an uninhabited US possession about 50 km (31 mi) west of Hispaniola.
Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince is located on Hispaniola's west coast.
The coastline of Haiti is irregular and forms a long southern peninsula and a shorter northern one, between which lies the Gulf of Gonâve. Rising from the coastal plains to a peak height at La Selle of 2,680 m (8,793 ft) and covering two-thirds of the interior, three principal mountain ranges stretch across the country; one runs east and west along the southern peninsula, while the others stretch northwestward across the mainland. Once-fertile plains run inland between the mountains: the Plaine du Nord, extending in the northeast to the Dominican border, and the Artibonite and Cul-de-Sac plains reaching west to the Gulf of Gonâve. Of the many small rivers, the Artibonite, which empties into the Gulf of Gonâve, and L'Estère are navigable for some distance.
The climate is tropical, with some variation depending on altitude. Port-au-Prince ranges in January from an average minimum of 23°c (73°f) to an average maximum of 31°c (88°f); in July, from 25–35°c (77–95°f). The rainfall pattern is varied, with rain heavier in some of the lowlands and on the northern and eastern slopes of the mountains. Port-au-Prince receives an average annual rainfall of 137 cm (54 in). There are two rainy seasons, April–June and October–November. Haiti is subject to periodic droughts and floods, made more severe by deforestation. Hurricanes are also a menace.
Tropical and semitropical plants and animals are characterized more by their variety than by their abundance. In the rain forest of the upper mountain ranges, pine and ferns as well as mahogany, cedar, rosewood, and sapin are found. Coffee, cacao, and coconut trees and native tropical fruits such as avocado, orange, lime, and mango grow wild.
Many species of insects abound, but there are no large mammals or poisonous snakes. Ducks, guinea hens, and four varieties of wild pigeons are plentiful. Egrets and flamingos live on the inland lakes. Reptile life includes three varieties of crocodile, numerous small lizards, and the rose boa. Tarpon, barracuda, kingfish, jack, and red snapper abound in the coastal waters.
As of 2002, there were at least 20 species of mammals, 62 species of birds, and over 5,200 species of plants throughout the country.
The virgin forests that once covered the entire country have now been reduced to 4% of the total land area. Deforestation has had a disastrous effect on soil fertility, because the steep hillsides on which so many Haitian farmers work are particularly susceptible to erosion. From 1990–2000, the rate of deforestation was about 5.7% per year. The nation loses 1.35 tons of soil per square kilometer yearly. Agricultural chemicals, such as DDT, are widely used in Haiti. These pollutants plus the use of oil with high lead content are a significant source of pollution. Not only has much of the topsoil been washed away, but the eroded slopes retain little rainfall and are vulnerable to flooding.
The chief impediment to reforestation is the fact that Haiti is so intensely cultivated that allocation of land for forests means a reduction in the land available for crop growing and grazing. Foreign organizations have attempted to alleviate these problems. In 1981, an $8 million Agroforestry Outreach Project, funded primarily by the United States, helped farmers plant trees throughout Haiti—over 4.5 million seedlings by 1983. The government also agreed to set up the nation's first two national parks with funding from the US Agency for International Development. However, as of 2003, only 0.4% of Haiti's total land area was protected.
Water quality is also a serious environmental problem. Haiti has 13 cu km of renewable water resources with 94% used for farming activity. About 91% of the nation's city dwellers and 59% of the rural population have access to improved water sources.
According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 4 types of mammals, 15 species of birds, 9 types of reptiles, 46 species of amphibians, 12 species of fish, 5 species of invertebrates, and 208 species of plants. Endangered species in Haiti included the tundra peregrine falcon, Haitian solenodon, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, and American crocodile. At least 13 species have become extinct, including the Caribbean monk seal, imposter hutia, and the Haitian edible rat.
The population of Haiti in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 8,288,000, which placed it at number 91 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 42% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 97 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be 1.9%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The government reinstated the Population Secretariat in 1997, which attempted to address the high fertility rate (4.5 births per woman); however, as of 2005 little progress had been made. The projected population for the year 2025 was 12,887,000. The population density was 299 per sq km (774 per sq mi).
The UN estimated that 36% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.95%. The capital city, Port-au-Prince, had a population of 1,961,000 in that year. Other major cities and their estimated populations are Jacmel (216,600) and Les Cayes (214,606).
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Haiti. The UN estimated that 7.7% of adults between the ages of 15–49 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.
Emigration from Haiti has been mainly to Cuba, other Caribbean states, Canada, and the United States; illegal emigration to the United States has been substantial since the 1960s. Between 1972 and 1981 more than 55,000 (perhaps as many as 100,000) Haitian "boat people" arrived in Florida. During 1981–85, some 43,312 Haitians were admitted legally to the United States. In September 1981, the US and Haitian governments agreed to work together to halt the flow of refugees, and these efforts apparently met with success. Over the next 10 years only 28 of the 22,716 Haitians intercepted at sea were admitted to the United States.
Several thousand Haitian migratory workers travel to the Dominican Republic each year during the cane-harvest season; many more change their residences permanently.
Following the 1991 coup (which overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide) many Haitians left for the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Suriname, Cuba, Panama, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico. Between 1991–93, 43,000 Haitians tried to reach the United States by boat, but were interdicted and held at Guantanamo Bay, the US naval base in Cuba. In October 1994, soon after Aristide's return to power, Haitians began repatriating, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) helped repatriate 8,052 persons from various countries. From the United States, some 16,500 repatriated voluntarily. The UNHCR office in Haiti was closed in April 1996. After disputed legislative elections in 2000, Haiti was politically and economically paralyzed. In February 2004, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced to resign. Again, US troops arrived and the US warned Haitians that if intercepted on their way to Florida, they would be returned to Haiti, or be detained in Guantanamo. In 2004, 5,389 Haitians entered the United States as refugees.
In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as -1.68 migrants per 1,000 population. The total number of migrants living in Haiti in 2000 was 26,000. The government viewed the emigration level as too high.
For the vast majority of Haiti's people, the African ethnic influence is dominant. About 95% of the inhabitants are of African descent; mulattos and whites make up the remaining 5% of the population.
The official languages of Haiti are French and Creole. French is only spoken by about 10–20% of the population. Virtually all the people speak Creole, a mixture of early 17th-century provincial French and African tongues, with infusions of English, Spanish, and Amerindian words. English is used in the capital and to a lesser extent in the provincial cities, and along the Dominican border a Spanish Creole is spoken.
For many years Roman Catholicism was the official religion of Haiti. Its official status was repealed with the enactment of the 1987 constitution; however, neither the government nor the Vatican has renounced the 1860 Concordat that serves as a basis for relations between the two. Roman Catholicism retains a position of honor, but Haitians are guaranteed the freedom to practice all religions by the constitution.
Roman Catholics represent about 50–55% of the population. Most of the remainder belong to various Protestant denominations, the largest being the Baptist and Pentecostal churches. Other significant denominations include Methodists, Episcopalians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Orthodox Christians. Other religious groups include Jews, Muslims, Rastafarians, and Baha'is. Voodoo, a traditional religion that is partially derived from West African beliefs, is still widely practiced, often in tandem with Christianity. Voodoo became an officially recognized church in 2003 with the establishment of the Eglise Voudou d'Ayiti (the Voodoo Church of Haiti) and has had a growing attendance since then.
In 2002, Haiti had 4,160 km (2,585 mi) of roads, 1,011 km (628 mi) of which were paved. Farm-to-market roads are few, and most produce for the local market is transported by burro or carried on foot by women. In 1980, a new highway linking Port-au-Prince with Les Cayes was opened, and several road improvement projects have been completed; overall, however, road conditions continue to deteriorate because of flooding. There were some 34,800 passenger cars and 34,325 commercial vehicles in 2003. In that same year, Haiti had a ratio of 223.3 inhabitants per registered vehicle, the highest ratio of any country in the Western Hemisphere. Two railroad systems, the National Railroad of Haiti and the Culde-Sac Railroad, with a combined trackage of 301 km (187 mi), originally operated lines from Port-au-Prince to Verrettes and to Léogâne, and from Cap-Haïtien south to Bahon. By 1982, however, most of the system had become inoperative; the 40 km (25 mi) of lines that remained in 1999 were being used only for sugarcane transport.
The commercial shipping fleet consists of a few hundred small sailing vessels engaged in coastal trade and a few motorized vessels of light tonnage. The island depends chiefly on foreign shipping. During the early 1980s, the IBRD sought to stimulate intercoastal trade by building port facilities at Jérémie, Port-au-Prince, and Port-de-Paix. Other ports and harbors include Cap-Haïtien, Gonaives, Jacmel, Les Cayes, Miragoane, and Saint-Marc.
In 2004 there were an estimated 13 airports, of which 4 had paved runways as of 2005. Domestic air service is supplied by the privately owned Air Haiti, which connects principal cities on regular scheduled flights. An international airport at Port-au-Prince opened in 1965; the other international airport is at Cap-Haïtien. Carriers serving Port-au-Prince are ALM, American Airlines, Air Canada, Canada 3000, Caribintair, Tropical Airways, Haiti International airlines, Air France, and COPA.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus made the European discovery of the island of Hispaniola and established a settlement near the present city of Cap-Haïtien. Within 25 years, the native Arawak, a peace-loving, agricultural people, were virtually annihilated by the Spanish settlers. Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas, a missionary to the Amerindians, who had originally come to Hispaniola as a planter in 1502, proposed that African slaves be imported for plantation labor. Starting after 1517 a forced migration of Africans gave Haiti its black population.
About 1625, French and English privateers and buccaneers, preying on Spanish Caribbean shipping, made the small island of Tortuga their base. The French soon also established a colonial presence on nearby mainland coasts and competed with the Spaniards. In the Treaty of Ryswick (1697), Spain ceded the western third of the island (Haiti) to the French. Under French rule it became one of the wealthiest of the Caribbean communities. This prosperity, stemming from forestry and sugar-related industries, came at a heavy cost in human misery and environmental degradation.
The French Revolution in 1789 outlawed slavery in France, which inspired Haiti's nearly half million black slaves to revolt. In a series of violent uprisings, slaves killed white planters and razed estates. Although they suffered cruel reprisals, they fought on under the direction of Toussaint L'Ouverture, an ex-slave who had risen to the rank of general in the French army. By 1801 Toussaint controlled the entire island, and promulgated a constitution, which abolished slavery. The emperor Napoleon did not accept this move, and sent 70 warships and 25,000 men to suppress the movement. Toussaint was captured, and died in a French prison.
Jean Jacques Dessalines, another black general who rose from the ranks, continued the struggle, and in 1803 the disease-decimated French army surrendered. On 1 January 1804, Dessalines proclaimed Haiti's independence. Dessalines, after assuming the title of emperor in 1804, was assassinated in 1806, and Haiti was divided into a northern monarchy and a southern republic. Under both regimes, the plantations were distributed among former slaves, and Haiti became a nation of small farmers. Haiti was reunited by Jean Pierre Boyer in 1820, and in 1822 the Haitian army conquered Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic). For 22 years there was one republic for the entire island. In 1844, however, one year after Boyer was overthrown, the Dominican Republic proclaimed its independence from Haiti. In 1849, the president of Haiti, Faustin Elie Soulouque, proclaimed himself Emperor Faustin I. He was dethroned by a revolution headed by Nicholas Fabre Geffrard, who reestablished the republic and became president. In 1860, Geffrard negotiated a concordat with the Holy See that established Roman Catholicism as the national religion, although freedom of worship was retained.
A long period of political instability between 1843 and 1915, during which time Haiti had 22 dictators, culminated in the assassination of President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and was followed by US military occupation. The occupation, which lasted 19 years, terminated in 1934 during the administration of President Sténio Vincent (1930–41), who in 1935 proclaimed a new constitution.
After World War II, another period of political instability reached a peak in a 1950 coup d'etat that brought Gen. Paul Magloire to power. Magloire's economic policies led to a serious depression. In December 1956 a national sit-down strike, organized jointly by business, labor, and professional leaders, forced Magloire into exile. A period of chaos ensued in which seven governments attempted to establish control.
In a September 1957 election filled with irregularities, François Duvalier, a middle-class black physician known to his followers as Papa Doc, became president. He began to rule by decree in 1958, and in May 1961, he had himself elected for another six years. On 22 June 1964, Duvalier was formally elected president for life. Despite several attempted revolts, he consolidated his position, ruling largely through his security force, the Tontons Macoutes ("bogeymen"). Political opposition was ruthlessly suppressed, and thousands of suspected dissidents "disappeared." Also murdered were some 3,000 supporters of Daniel Fignolé, leader of the Peasant Workers Movement (Mouvement Ouvrier Paysan) and Duvalier's most effective opponent.
Political life under the Papa Doc regime was characterized by plots against the government and governmental counterterrorism, the latter was entrusted to the Tontons Macoutes and to other thugs known as cagoulards. Opposition leaders went into hiding or exile. The Haitian Revolutionary Movement (Mouvement Révolutionnaire Haïtien), led by Haitian exiles Luc B. Innocent and Paul G. Argelin, began operations in Colombia in February 1961.
The National Democratic Union (Union Démocratique Nationale) was founded in Puerto Rico in April 1962 by former Ambassador Pierre Rigaud, with a branch in Venezuela organized by Paul Verna and an underground movement operating in Haiti. Invasions in 1964, 1969, and 1970 met with no success. Haitian exiles in New York, Montréal, Chicago, and Washington mounted an influential anti-Duvalier campaign during the 1960s. Throughout this period, no party operated openly in Haiti except the Duvalierist Party of National Unity (Parti de l'Unité Nationale).
On 22 January 1971, Duvalier named his son Jean-Claude to be his successor. Papa Doc died on 21 April 1971, and Jean-Claude, at the age of 19, became president for life the following day. The younger Duvalier sought to ease political tensions, encouraged tourism and foreign investment, and contributed to the beginnings of an economic revival. However, political arrests did not wholly cease, and there were severe economic reversals in the mid- and late-1970s.
In February 1979, elections to the National Assembly took place amid allegations of government fraud. Opposition groups were then arrested, tried, and convicted of subversion, but later released. In January and March 1982, two small exile groups tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the government by staging armed invasions. The first municipal elections of the Duvalier period were held in spring 1983. The voting resulted, for the most part, in victories for the government, partly because several opposition figures had been arrested during the campaign.
Jean-Claude proved to be an ineffectual leader and tensions mounted as the economy stagnated after 1980. When civil disorder began to break out in the mid-1980s, the president became increasingly reclusive. In February 1986, following a series of demonstrations and protests, Jean-Claude and his family fled to France, and the National Governing Council (Conseil National de Gouvernement—CNG), led by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, seized power. Namphy's declared purpose was to provide a transition to a democratically elected government. A constituent assembly, convened in October 1986, drafted a new constitution that was approved by referendum in March 1987.
Hopes for the restoration of democracy soon faded. The presidential election scheduled for November 1987 was postponed as gangs of thugs and soldiers killed at least 34 persons. The CNG attempted new elections and a new government, but those governments had no legitimacy at home or abroad. In December 1990 a Roman Catholic priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected with 67.5% of the votes cast. The immediate aftermath of the CNG's takeover was euphoric. Political prisoners were released and the dreaded Tontons Macoute (Duvalier's clandestine secret police) were disbanded.
Aristide had an ideology, a sort of egalitarian Catholic doctrine, and a political coalition of 15 parties, the National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD). But, he did not have the confidence of the military. Upset by his popularity and his foreign policy, which favored stronger hemispheric relations at the expense of US-Haitian relations, the military under Gen. Raoul Cédras ousted him in October 1991. From exile, Aristide did not relent, and appealed to international organizations for help. The UN and OAS forged an agreement between Cédras and Aristide to return Aristide to the presidency in October 1993, but the military balked. Aristide promptly appealed to the Clinton administration, even as he criticized US policy, and the Clinton administration responded with sanctions against the Haitian regime in May and June of 1994. However, the impasse persisted.
In September 1994, as a last resort, the Clinton administration secured international support for a military invasion of Haiti to force Cédras from power. A US invasion force was assembled and war seemed imminent. However, in the 11th hour, Clinton sent a special delegation, headed by former US president Jimmy Carter, to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis. As US fighter planes were about to take off for Haiti, the Carter team reached an agreement with Cédras and war was diverted. American forces peacefully took control of the country and, in October 1994, restored Aristide to power.
Returning to the country after a three-year absence, Aristide faced two major challenges: rescuing the country's economy, which was in dire straits following the international embargo that had been imposed on it, and curbing the rampant violent street crime, gang activity, and vigilantism that had developed in the absence of an adequate justice system. To cope with the security vacuum created by the departure of the military regime, UN peacekeeping forces arrived in March of 1995.
In June 1995 elections for local and legislative office, though marred by mismanagement and requiring additional rounds of voting, remained free of state-sponsored violence and were generally regarded as a sign of success for the nation's fledgling democracy. Although there was strong sentiment among many Haitians in favor of having Aristide remain in office beyond the end of his designated single term as president (most of which had been usurped by military rule), US support remained contingent on adhering to the terms of the 1987 constitution, which barred the president from seeking a second consecutive term. Aristide himself wavered about honoring this provision but ultimately stepped down, endorsing a close associate, René Préval, to succeed him in office. Préval was elected on 17 December 1995, with 88% of the vote. In February 1996 he took office, becoming Haiti's second democratically elected president in the country's 191-year history as an independent nation. The presence of both a UN peacekeeping force of over 1,000 and several hundred US troops was extended through November 1997. In July 1997 Haiti became a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Even under relatively stable political conditions, Haiti's economic and security problems proved intractable. Poverty and unemployment—estimated at 80%—remained endemic. In May 1996 Préval agreed to economic reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund, including privatization of state-owned enterprises, a measure previously resisted by his government. However, former president Aristide opposed the privatization plans and in 1997 formed a new political grouping of his own. After failing to win parliamentary approval for three nominees for prime minister in 1998, President Préval dissolved parliament in January 1999 and unilaterally appointed a new prime minister, provoking civil unrest in the streets. Through the rest of 1999 and into early 2000, Préval repeatedly postponed promised legislative elections, leaving the country without a fully operating government. A wave of violence escalated and eventually claimed the life of the country's most prominent radio journalist, Jean Leopold Dominique, who was murdered in April 2000.
In the presidential election held in November 2000, former president Aristide easily won the election with 91.8% of the vote. His party, the Fanmi Lavalas (FL—Lavalas Family), won 83 of the 93 seats in the National Assembly. After taking office in early 2001, Aristide was accused of developing a highly personalist and authoritarian government. He concentrated power in his own hands and failed to build and consolidate democratic institutions. The economy continued its downward spiral, with negative growth in 2001 and 2002 and more than 80% of Haitians living in poverty. In addition, international organizations expressed concern over the growing violence in the country and the little respect for human rights shown by the Aristide government. Rebellion, escalating in early 2003, coupled with international pressure, led to the resignation of Aristide on 29 February 2004, who then went into exile in South Africa. The same day, Boniface Alexandre, a Supreme Court justice, was sworn in as president of an interim government. The rebels, made up largely of personnel from the disbanded military, continued sporadic violence as UN forces attempted to control security by confiscating weapons; Aristide supporters also protested, sometimes in violent support for his return. Rebels almost began another attempt to oust the interim government, but money began flowing into the country again when loans and aid were released after about a four-year freeze. The interim government was able to make some payments to appease the rebels, who demanded that the military be reinstated with 10 years of back pay, but organizational hurdles twice postponed elections originally slated for October.
On 7 February 2006, general elections were held for the first time since Aristide was overthrown in 2004. Former President René Préval was declared the winner of the highly contested presidential election, with 51% of the vote. Préval was declared the winner after election officials agreed to discount thousands of blank ballots. Préval's supporters had taken to the streets, rejecting initial vote tallies, which would have led to a second round of voting. Préval took office on 14 May 2006.
Under Article 197 of the 1964 constitution, François Duvalier was appointed president for life, with the stipulation that this article be approved in a nationwide plebiscite. On 14 June 1964, the voters were declared to have "almost unanimously" given their consent. He was granted power to dissolve the Legislative Assembly and the cabinet and to govern by decree in case of grave conflict. A constitutional amendment in January 1971 allowed the president to choose his successor. Jean-Claude Duvalier became president for life in April 1971 and was chief of state and head of government until early 1986.
The constitution adopted in March 1987 established a president elected to a five-year term as head of state and restricted to no more than two nonconsecutive terms in office. The head of government was to be the prime minister, appointed by the president from the party holding the majority in both houses of the legislature, which is made up of a 27-member Senate and a Chamber of Deputies with 83 members. Supporters of the Duvaliers were barred from holding political office for 10 years. Senators are elected for six years and deputies for four.
Since its passage, the constitution was suspended in June 1988 and reinstated in March 1989. The leaders of the coup of October 1991 claimed to be observing the constitution and Marc Bazin was named head of a caretaker government. But to all observers, nothing approaching a political system was present in Haiti until the restoration of the democratically elected Aristide government in late 1994. Because of an agreement with the United States, Aristide was unable to seek a second consecutive term and endorsed René Préval to succeed him in office. Préval was elected on 17 December 1995 as the country's second democratically elected president. In 2000, Aristide was elected president again, marking the first time that a democratically elected president completed his term without interruption and handed power over to another democratically elected leader. In 2004, however, Aristide resigned following a violent uprising; he went into exile in South Africa. The country was thrown into chaos and UN peacekeepers arrived to provide security for the country. In February 2006, former President René Préval was elected with 51% of the vote in the first round.
From the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, two major political parties, the Liberals and the Nationalists, were predominant. The Liberals, composed mainly of the wealthier and better-educated mulatto minority, advocated legislative control of government, while the Nationalists, composed mainly of the lower- and middle-class black majority, favored a strong executive. The traditional mulatto hegemony, whose wealth was inherited from the departed French colonists, was ended by Duvalier, who used the mulattoes as scapegoats.
After Jean-Claude Duvalier became president in 1971, some political activity was allowed, but by 1982 most dissidents had again been silenced. In 1979, an opposition Haitian Christian Democratic Party (Parti Démocratique Chrétien d'Haïti—PDCH) was founded, but its leader, Sylvio Claude, was arrested in October 1980. In the 1979 legislative elections only one antigovernment candidate won a seat; he resigned in July 1981. The PDCH dropped out of the municipal election campaign in 1983 following the arrest of several party members on national security charges.
Dozens of parties emerged after the CNG ousted Jean-Claude Duvalier in February 1986, most prominently, the National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD), which backed Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the 1990 elections, but from which he later disassociated himself. Other groups include the National Congress of Democratic Movements (CONACOM), the Rally of Progressive National Democrats (RDNP), the Revolutionary Progressive Nationalist Party (PANPRA), and the Movement for the Installation of Democracy in Haiti (MIDH), under former Prime Minister Marc Bazin.
By 1995 the dominant party, and the one associated with Aristide, was the Lavalas Political Platform, an alliance of the Lavalas Political Organization (OPL) and the Movement for the Organization of the Country (MOP). Backed by Aristide and Lavalas, René Préval was elected president in the December 1995 elections with 88% of the vote. In the mid-1995 legislative elections, all but one of the 18 vacated Senate seats were won by Lavalas candidates and the party also swept the election in the lower house, with 12 seats going to candidates of other groups, including independents. In 1997, former president Bertrand Aristide formally registered a new party—Fanmi Lavalas (FL—Lavalas Family)—which broke ranks with the existing Lavalas government before the 2000 elections. The legislative elections, initially scheduled for June 1999, were postponed repeatedly throughout the rest of 1999 and the first half of 2000. They were eventually held, together with the presidential elections, in November 2000. The FL dominated the elections, which were boycotted by the opposition. Parliamentary elections were due to be held in 2003, but they were not. Large protests were held against Aristide's rule, which eventually turned into a rebellion which, along with international pressure, ousted him on 29 February 2004.
A first round of legislative elections was held on 7 February 2006, but only two deputies were elected. A second round of legislative elections was held on 21 April 2006. René Préval's alliance Front for Hope or L'ESPWA won 11 seats in the Senate. Other parties winning Senate seats included: Struggling People's Organization (OPL), 4; Fanmi Lavalas (FL), 3; Merging of Haitian Social Democratic Parties (FUSION), 3; Artibonite in Action (LAAA), 2; National Christian Union for the Reconstruction of Haiti (UNCRH), 2; Democratic Alliance (ALYANS) 1; For Us All (PONT), 1; 3 seats were subject to a run-off election. In the Chamber of Deputies, seats by party were: L'ESPWA 19; FUSION 15; ALYANS 10; OPL 8; FL 6; UNCRH 6; Mobilization for Haiti's Development (MPH), 4; Assembly of Progressive National Democrats (RDNP), 4; LAAA 3; Cooperative Action to Build Haiti (KONBA), 3; National Front for the Reconstruction of Hait (FRN) 1; New Christian Movement for a New Haiti (MOCHRENHA), 1; Movement for National Reconstruction (MRN), 1; Heads Together (Tet-Ansanm), 1; Independent Movement for National Reconciliation (MIRN), 1; Justice for Peace and National Development (JPDN), 1; Union of Nationalist and Progressive Haitians (UNITE), 1; Liberal Party of Haiti (PLH), 1; 13 seats were subject to a run-off election by June 2006.
As of 1999, Haiti was divided into nine departments and subdivided into arrondissements and communes. Each department is headed by a prefect appointed by the central government. Under the constitution, a commune is headed by an elected mayor, whose powers are strictly circumscribed. Local government is limited and all taxes collected by the communes are paid directly into the national treasury. The first open municipal elections in 26 years took place in 1983. Local mayoral and council elections were held in December 1995. In January 1999 President René Préval began appointing mayors and other local officials because political violence and instability had resulted in the delay of local elections. Since taking office, President Aristide has replaced many of the mayors elected by Préval. By late 2002, most government officials and authorities were loyal to Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas party. Opposition leaders were prevented from having power in local governments.
The judiciary consists of four levels: the Court of Cassation, courts of appeal, civil courts, and magistrates' courts. Judges of the Court of Cassation are appointed by the president for 10-year terms. Government prosecutors, appointed by the courts, act in both civil and criminal cases. There are also land, labor, and children's courts. Military courts function in both military and civilian cases when the constitution is suspended. The legal system is based upon the French Napoleonic Code.
Until 1995, the Haitian armed forces controlled law enforcement and public security even though the constitution called for separation of the police and military. The 1987 constitution was put into effect in 1995. Although the constitution also calls for an independent judiciary, all judges since 1986 have been appointed and removed at the will of the government and political pressures affect the judiciary at all levels. The justices of peace issue warrants and adjudicate minor infractions. The Supreme Court deals with questions of procedure and constitutionality. Haiti accepts compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. On 9 June 2003, a treaty was ratified to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), with the first session of the CCJ scheduled for November 2003. Although Haiti was not among the eight nations to officially approve the CCJ, it did agree to use the CCJ for resolution of trade disputes.
In 1994, a civilian administration replaced the military government. The armed forces and police were disbanded and they were replaced with a National Police Force, which had an estimated 5,300 members. Since 1 June 2004 there have been no active armed forces, replaced instead, by a UN stabilization force, with 6,700 authorized personnel. A National Police Force of around 2,000 personnel remains operational. Security expenditures in 2000 (the latest year for which data was available) were $50 million.
Haiti is a charter member of the United Nations, having joined on 24 October 1945; it is part of ECLAC and several specialized UN agencies, such as FAO, IAEA, ILO, IMF, IFC, UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO, and the World Bank. Haiti joined the WTO in 1996. The country is also a member of the ACP Group, G-77, the Inter-American development Bank, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), CARICOM, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the OAS.
During the 1991–94 period of de facto military rule, the UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) was formed (1993), with a total of 38 countries participating, to restore legitimate government and create a secure and stable political environment within the country. In 1994, the UN Security Council authorized deployment of a US-led multinational force to accomplish this task. From 1994–2001, other peacekeeping missions were established, including the United Nations Support Mission in Haiti (UNSMIH), the United Nations Transition Mission in Haiti (UNTMIH) and the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH). The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established in 2004, at the resignation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to support the efforts of the transitional government. A total of 20 countries have offered support to MINUSTAH.
Haiti is a signatory of the 1947 Río Treaty, an inter-American security agreement. The nation also participates in the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) and is a signatory to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental protection, Haiti is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the London Convention, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.
One of the richest colonial possessions based on its slave-operated sugar plantations, and site of the world's first successful slave revolt, Haiti is now one of the world's poorest countries, separated on the island of Hispanola from the prospering Dominican Republic by racial and linguistic divisions, and a river named Massacre. About 80% of the population lives in abject poverty, engaged mainly in subsistence agriculture. The economy is basically agricultural: coffee, mangoes, sugar, rice, corn, sorghum, and wood are the main products. Some cottage industries were developed in the mid 1940s, and in the late 1950s and early 1960s the mining sector, particularly bauxite and copper, grew to provide important export items. By the early 1980s, however, mining was losing its importance, and light export-oriented industry, based on cheap labor, was the main growing area. The informal market is growing including the black market transshipment of cocaine. In 2003, Haiti remains one of the 23 countries on the US government's list of major drug-producing or drug-transit countries.
Haiti has suffered a series of natural and political setbacks. Hurricanes have often destroyed substantial parts of the coffee and sugar crops. During 1960–70, the real GDP declined annually by 0.2%. The accession of Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1971 improved the economy, and between 1970 and 1979, the average annual growth of the GDP was 4%. The economy took a downward turn in the early 1980s, growing by only 0.90% between 1977 and 1987.
On 30 September 1991 a military coup headed by General Cedras deposed the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The OAS and the United States imposed several economic sanctions following this military coup. The accumulated contraction in the economy from 1991–94 amounted to about 30%, leaving per capita income at about $260. A UN-mediated agreement called for President Aristide's return to power, which occurred in 1994.
In 1995, GDP growth reached a recent high of 4.5% due mainly to public investment equal to 7.2% of GDP (compared to 0.6% in 1994). Inflation fell to 30.2%, down from 36.1% in 1994. In 1996, GDP growth moderated to 2.78% as inflation fell to 20%. From 1997 to 1999, annual GDP growth averaged 2.1% and inflation fell to single digits, 8.3% in 1998 and 9.9% in 1999. With extensions of credit under the IMF's Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF), the government initiated fiscal policy and structural reforms. After Aristide was voted out of office in 1996, the prime minister resigned in 1997, and the legislature broke up in 1999; all these factors contributed to a cessation of economic reforms. In 2000, violence, civil unrest and fraud that marred the presidential election and led donor countries to put a hold on about $500 million of economic assistance, helped bring GDP growth down to a negligible 0.9% as inflation increased to 15.3%. A new agreement in November 2000 with the IMF was voted down by the legislature. In 2001, continued political unrest, the freezing of over $1 billion in credits from international financial institutions, and the deterioration in the external economy following recession in the United States and the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks brought on Haiti's first contraction since 1994 as GDP fell 1.1%. In 2002, the US government (George W. Bush administration) continued to block aid to Haiti on condition that political reforms, specific arrests, and disarmament would first have to be carried out, and sent assistance to the Dominican Republic to help their military seal their border against Haitian refugees along the Massacre River.
Economic growth for 2002 was -0.9%, with inflation at 9.9%. Unemployment was an estimated 60%. In 2003 the GDP growth rate recovered slightly at 0.5%, but in 2004 it relapsed again, reaching -3.8%; in 2005 the economy was expected to expand by 2%. Inflation went out of control, reaching 39.3% in 2003, and 22.8% in 2004; it was expected to fall to 15% in 2005. Haiti suffers from lack of investments, and a severe trade deficit. In addition, civil conflict and natural disasters, in 2004, added to the problems of an already impoverished country. Foreign aid flows have started to pick up in past years that not at a pace that would offer immediate economic relief.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Haiti's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $12.9 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $1,600. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 13.3%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 30% of GDP, industry 20%, and services 50%.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $811 million or about $96 per capita and accounted for approximately 27.8% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $200 million or about $24 per capita and accounted for approximately 6.9% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Haiti totaled $2.69 billion or about $316 per capita based on a GDP of $2.9 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1980 to 1990 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 0.9%. It was estimated that in 2003 about 80% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.
In the latest years for which data was available, Haiti's labor force in 1998 was estimated at three million. Of that total, agriculture employed 66%; industry, 9%; and services, 25%. Unemployment and underemployment in Haiti is widespread, As of 2002, it was estimated that more than two-thirds of the country's labor force did not have formal employment of any kind.
Because the proportion of wage earners is relatively small, the labor movement is weak. In 2002, there were nine principal labor federations, representing about 5% of the total labor force. Unions are independent of the government and political parties, but they must register to achieve legal recognition. Strikes are permitted, but participation in strike activity is low. Collective bargaining does not occur.
The minimum age for employment is legally set at 15 years with the exception of domestic service. Child labor is not problematic in the formal sector due to job competition, however it remains prevalent in the informal economy. In industry and service organizations, the legal standard is an eight-hour day with a 48-hour week and 24-hour rest on Sunday. The legal daily minimum wage in 2002 was $1.52, which does not provide a decent standard of living for a family. This only applies to the formal wage-earners, and does not apply to agricultural workers or the informal sector of the economy.
With 62% of the laboring population deriving its living exclusively from the soil, farming is the mainstay of the Haitian economy. Although only about one-third of the country's land is considered suitable for cultivation because of the rugged terrain, 40% of the land was actually being used for crop and feed production and pasture in 2003. Nevertheless, population growth outstripped agricultural growth during the 1970s, and a drought in 1985 affected the production of such important staple crops as rice, maize, and beans. Consequently, foodstuffs have had to be imported in increasing quantity.
Production of coffee in 2004 totaled 28,000 tons, as compared with the record-high of 43,600 tons in 1962. Sugarcane is the second major cash crop, but production has been declining; in 1976, Haiti became a net importer of sugar. Sugarcane production in 2004 was 1,080,000 tons. Other agricultural production figures for the 2004 growing season (in thousands of tons) were bananas, 290; corn, 180; rice, 102; sorghum, 85; dry beans, 33; and cocoa beans, 4.4. Haitian agriculture is characterized by numerous small plots averaging slightly over one hectare (2.5 acres) per family, on which peasants grow most of their food crops and a few other crops for cash sale; few farms exceed 12 hectares (30 acres). Haiti employs an unusual form of farming called arboriculture. Combinations of fruit trees and various roots, particularly the manioc plant, the traditional Haitian bread staple, replace the grain culture of the usual subsistence-economy farming. Crops are cultivated with simple hand tools; the plow or animal power is only rarely employed, except on sugarcane plantations. Coffee is grown on humid mountain slopes, cotton on the semiarid plateaus and sealevel plains, and bananas as well as sugar on the irrigated plains, which covered about 57,000 hectares (140,800 acres) in 2004. Rice has become a basic staple for Haitians, but local production only meets a little more than 20% of demand.
Stock raising is generally a supplementary activity on small farms. In 2005 there were 1,456,000 head of cattle, 1,000,000 hogs, 1,900,000 goats, 500,000 horses, 153,500 sheep, and 5,500,000 poultry. The hog population was decimated by African swine fever in 1979, and careful efforts at replacement have been unsuccessful. In the mid-1990s, the poultry industry contracted from over 100 commercial producers to less than 10. In addition to the embargo and political uncertainty, the industry is under competitive pressure of low cost poultry imports from the United States. Poultry production has not risen enough to fill the vacuum in the rural diet. Extension work directed by the Department of Agriculture's educational center at Damien has helped to stabilize animal husbandry. Poultry production slowly increased from about 6,000 tons per year in the mid-1990s to 8,400 tons by 2005. Native stock has been upgraded by the introduction of hogs and cattle from abroad, particularly the zebu, which does well in the hot, dry plains. Two major stock-feeding centers operate at Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien. Livestock products in 2005 included 99,893 tons of meat, 25,200 tons of goat's milk, 44,500 tons of cow's milk, and 5,050 tons of eggs.
While the proximity of Haiti to the Windward Passage and the north-flowing currents off the Venezuelan coast place it in the path of major fish migrations, including tuna, marlin, bonito, and sardines, the commercial fishing industry is not developed. Reef fish, including giant grouper and rock lobster, are important food sources because deep-sea fishing is limited. Fisheries have been successfully developed in the small ponds and in the irrigation and drainage ditches of the Artibonite Plain. Carp and tertar, a native fish, are abundant, but lack of transport and other facilities limits this important food source to local consumption. The catch was estimated at 5,010 tons in 2003, including 200 tons of Caribbean spiny lobster and 300 tons of conch.
Originally, Haiti was endowed with abundant forest resources. Excellent stands of pine were located in the mountain rain forests of La Hotte Massif and in the Massif du Nord. (Haitian pine is high in turpentine and rosin content, making it suitable for naval stores.) Major stands of mahogany grew in the Fer à Cheval region, and small stands occurred in the island's lower mountain ranges. Tropical oak, cedar, rosewood, and taverneaux also were widespread; hardwoods included lavan (mahogany), narra, tindalo, and ipil. The intensive use of the forests for fuel, both in colonial times and in the modern era, and the clearing of woodlands for agriculture resulted in a decline of Haiti's forestland from over 2.7 million hectares (6.7 million acres) before the coming of Columbus to about 88,000 hectares (217,000 acres) by 2000, the majority of which was privately owned. Such deforestation has created a problem with soil erosion. Reforestation efforts have been more ambitious in design than successful in execution. Haiti had an annual average deforestation rate of 5.7% during 1990–2000, the highest in the world. Of the estimated 2,231,000 cu m (78,784,000 cu ft) of wood cut in 2004, almost 89% was used for fuel.
The mining sector played a minor role in Haiti's economy. In 2003, mining was limited to sand, gravel, and marble. Cement was also produced in 2003. Asphalt, lime, and salt may also have been produced. The marble industry was being developed for export possibilities.
In 2003, cement production totaled 290,300 metric tons. Sand and gravel production that same year each totaled an estimated 450,000 and 2 million cu m, respectively. Marble output in 2003 was estimated at 131 cu m.
There were small, undeveloped deposits in northern Haiti of chromite, copper (both sedimentary and in veins, in the Massif du Nord), gold, iron ore, lead, manganese (in the Morne Macat section of the Massif du Nord), silver, sulfur, tin, and zinc. There were also bauxite deposits near Miragoâne, and deposits of antimony, gypsum, nickel, and porphyry. The Canadian company St. Genevieve Resources estimated that two small gold mines near Cap-Haïtien could yield at least $100 million over 10 years. The Canadian company KWG Resources, Inc. had two properties with gold and copper resources—Grand Bois and Morne Bossa.
All subsoil rights belonged to the state; private ownership of mining companies was permitted, and mineral exploration has generally been conducted by foreign enterprises. Private gold mining was permitted, but the metal had to be sold to the National Bank. Production of bauxite ceased with the 1985 closing of the Reynolds mine; production peaked at 613,000 tons in 1979, and exports were worth $14.9 million in 1982. Copper mining was suspended in 1971, because it became unprofitable.
Haiti has no known proven reserves of oil, natural gas, coal, or any oil refining capacity. As a result the country must import whatever refined petroleum products or fossil fuels it consumes. In 2002, imports and consumption of refined petroleum products averaged 11,610 barrels per day in 2002. There were no imports or consumption of natural gas or coal for that same year.
Haiti's electric power sector is marked by reliance upon fossil fuels and hydropower to generate electricity. In 2002, conventional thermal fueled generating capacity totaled 0.244 million kW, with hydropower accounting for 0.063 million kW and fossil fuel plants 0.181 million kW. Electric power production in that year totaled 0.609 billion kWh, with hydropower and conventional thermal accounting for 0.298 billion kWh and 0.311 kWh, respectively. Total power demand in 2002 totaled 0.566 billion kWh. Although power represented the government's top investment priority in the early 1970s, as of July 2005, the electricity supply remains erratic and inadequate. Most industrial plants have standby generators.
Industry has traditionally been primarily devoted to the processing of agricultural and forestry products, although the assembly of imported components for export to the United States and other markets has grown into a substantial industry. During 1970–78, the industrial sector grew by 8.3% annually; between 1977 and 1987, growth was null; and between 1988 and 1998 the sector declined by 3.1% annually. The parastatal flour refinery and cement factory were sold to foreign interests in 1999. The flour refinery had been out of service for five years before it began operations again in 1998. The cement factory was undergoing restructuring in 1999, and thus was closed. Since the flour refinery and cement factory were privatized in 1999, privatization has stalled. Other industries produce aluminum, enamelware, garments and hats, essential oils, plastic, soap, pharmaceuticals, and paint. A steel plant commenced operations in 1974, converting imported scrap into steel sections. Haitian plants assemble US-made components to create electronic devices, toys, and leather goods. In 1986, before the trade embargo, some 140 export assembly firms employed about 40,000 people. The figure was only 400 in 1994, but five years later 25,000 people were employed in such firms.
Industry grew by 6% annually in 1997 and 1998. However, a growing trade imbalance preempted a more robust recovery, and the global economic slowdown in the United States that began in 2001 negatively affected the Haitian economy. Construction has been consistently more dynamic than agriculture and manufacturing, which realized only moderate output increases.
Industry made up 20% of the economy in 2001, and it employed only 9% of the labor force; services represented 30% of the overall GDP, and employed 25% of the workforce; agriculture was the biggest employer, at 66%, and contributed with 30% to the overall GDP.
The National Council for Scientific Research, founded in 1963, coordinates scientific activities in Haiti, especially in the public health field. Four colleges and universities, including the University of Haiti, offer degrees in basic and applied sciences.
Port-au-Prince, a free port, is the commercial center of Haiti, with Cap-Haïtien second in importance. Most Haitian products are sold in regional markets, which meet on traditional established days, once or twice a week. The Croix-de-Bossales market in Port-au-Prince is the largest market in the country, handling about two-thirds of the food and manufactures used in the capital.
Imported goods usually are sold in small stalls (boutiques), but there are some modern supermarkets. Specialty goods and articles for the tourist trade are offered by merchants who are generally franchised to handle specific brands. Some larger franchised stores, including Sears, Radio Shack, NAPA Auto Parts, and Domino's Pizza, have found a market with the help of Haitian business managers. Although foreign imports, motion pictures, and soft drinks are advertised in newspapers, radio is the principal advertising medium.
Stores are generally open on weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm in the winter, with some shops open until about 7 pm. In summer, closing time is set by law at 4 pm; on Saturdays, stores close at noon. Banks are open from 9 am to 1 pm, Monday through Friday.
Coffee has been supplanted as the main export by manufactured articles assembled in Haiti. The high deficit in the trade balance, with a marginal increase in exports and continued high import buoyancy in the late 1990s, reflects pent-up aggregate demand that is not satisfied by domestic production. Narrowing the trade deficit will therefore require a policy mix that prioritizes exportoriented productive sectors.
The light manufacture of clothes in Haiti accounts for the majority of commodity exports (56%). Other exports include essential oils (5.6%), coffee (5.4%), tropical fruits and vegetables (5.4%), and paper products (4.8%). Haiti's biggest export market is, by far, the United States.
In 2004, exports reached $338 million (FOB—Free on Board), while imports grew to $1.1 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to the United States (81.2%), the Dominican Republic (7.3%), and Canada (4.1%). Imports included food, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, and raw materials, and mainly came from the United States (34.8%), the Netherlands Antilles (18%), Malaysia (5.1%), and Colombia (4.7%).
Haiti's external trade position worsened from 1991 to 1994 following the imposition of the trade embargo. As all but humanitarian foreign aid was suspended during those years, balance of
|Balance on goods||-782.7|
|Balance on services||-123.0|
|Balance on income||-14.3|
|Direct investment abroad||…|
|Direct investment in Haiti||…|
|Portfolio investment assets||…|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||…|
|Other investment assets||-98.0|
|Other investment liabilities||13.7|
|Net Errors and Omissions||85.0|
|Reserves and Related Items||4.6|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
payments deficits reflected the decline in net capital inflows. Once a constitutional government was returned to power in 1994, however, imports increased, due to high domestic demand. As a result of aid flows and remittances from Haitians living abroad, imports in the 1990s and into the early 2000s grew steadily. Haiti's ability to generate export revenue depends upon a revival of the assembly sector.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Haiti's exports was $326.6 million while imports totaled $977.5 million resulting in a trade deficit of $650.9 million.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1998 Haiti had exports of goods totaling $299 million and imports totaling $641 million. The services credit totaled $180 million and debit $381 million.
Exports of goods and services reached $502 million in 2004, up from $461 million in 2003. Imports grew from $1.4 billion in 2003, to $1.5 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, worsening from -$939 million in 2003, to -$953 million in 2004. The current account balance was also negative, slightly improving from -$140 million in 2003, to - $98 million in 2004.
The national bank of the Republic of Haiti (Banque Nationale de la République d'Haïti-BRH), the sole bank of issue and government depository, was founded in 1880 and acquired from US interests in 1934 and became the fiscal agent of Haiti in 1947. As the nation's principal commercial bank, it participates in the national lottery, the national printing office and plant, the National Archives, banana development, the tobacco and sugar monopolies, the Agricultural and Industrial Development Institute, and the Agricultural Credit Bureau; it is also a depositor with the IMF and IBRD.
The first private Haitian bank, the Bank of the Haitian Union, opened in 1973. In 2002, nine other commercial banks were in operation; including one of them Haitian (Banque Industrielle et Commerciale d'Haiti), one US (Citibank), and one Canadian (Bank of Nova Scotia). There are two state-owned banks, Banque Nationale de Crédit and Banque Populaire Haitienne. Other banks included Promobank, Unibank, Sogebank, Socabank, and Capital Bank. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $434.3 million. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $1.4 billion.
There is no securities exchange in Haiti. Trading in Haitian corporations that make public offerings of their bonds or equity shares is conducted on the New York over-the-counter market.
Major world insurance companies maintain agencies or branches in Haiti, the most prominent being Sun Life of Canada, the first to enter into life insurance. The insurance classes covered are life, accident, sickness, fire, and motor.
In the mid to late 1990s, Haiti, under President Préval, undertook a program of economic reform. The agenda included trade liberalization, increasing fiscal responsibility, downsizing civil service, financial sector reform, and privatization of some state-owned enterprises. The privatization program stalled in 2001, a year in which GDP fell by 2.1% due to political uncertainty, low investment, a high budget deficit, and reduced capital inflow from abroad.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Haiti's central government took in revenues of approximately $400 million and had expenditures of $600.8 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$200.8 million. Total external debt was $1.3 billion.
Corporate and personal incomes are both taxed according to a progressive scale ranging from 10% to 35%. Since 1951, new corporations, if placed on the government's list of recommended new industries have benefited from special tax concessions, including customs duties exemption and a five-year corporate income tax exemption. The progressive income tax is the most important direct tax. The first band, 10%, implicitly exempts the first 20,000 gourde of income (about $509) from taxation, and runs to 100,000 gourde ($2,542). The 15% band covers the next increment of income to 250,000 gourde ($6,360); the 25% band covers the next increment to 750,000 gourde ($19,076), and the highest band, 30%, applies to all income above $19,076. The highest property tax rate is reportedly 15%. Indirect taxes include a value-added tax (VAT) with a 10% standard rate, raised from 7% in 1985. There are also numerous excise taxes at various rates.
In February 1987, a new tariff structure replaced all remaining specific duties with ad valorem tariffs and introduced new rates of between zero and 15%, except for higher rates on rice, maize, millet, flour, and gasoline, and lower rates for sugar and cement. All imports are subject to a 10% VAT and 4% verification fee. Fuel imports are subject to various additional excise taxes.
Haiti was voted into CARICOM in July 1999 and is working towards full integration by 2006. The country is also a part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), allowing duty-free entry of exports to the United States, and is a signatory to the Lomè Convention, allowing mostly free exporting to the European Union.
The government welcomes foreign investment, granting important concessions to new industries not competing with local production. Such enterprises are exempt from import and export duties for the life of the enterprise and enjoy a full tax exception for the first five years of operation. Companies locating in the industrial park are entitled to tax exception for a further three years. For companies that locate outside the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area there is a 100% income tax exemption for 5 to 15 years with 15–20% of the income tax payable thereafter. Additionally, for export and import oriented business, there is an exemption without time limit from customs duties on imported machinery, equipment, raw materials, and accessories needed for production. Foreign capital enjoys equal status treatment with Haitian capital. The National Office for Investment Promotion is in charge of foreign investment.
Substantial foreign investment in Haiti began during World War II as a means of stimulating production of goods considered essential to the United States war effort. Agricultural development was financed largely by the US Export-Import Bank and the World Bank, supplemented with private foreign capital.
In October 1996, the IMF approved a $131 million loan to Haiti. The credit, to be provided over a three-year period, is aimed at supporting a national economic reform program. The international donor community committed $2 billion in concessional loans and grants to Haiti for the 1995–99 period, including $390 million from the World Bank. Unfortunately, the political impasse of 2000 caused a freeze on international donations.
Foreign direct investment (FDI), since the lifting of the trade embargo in 1995, has increased only moderately. By 1998, annual FDI inflow to Haiti reached almost $11 million, up from $4.4 million in 1997, and in 1999, FDI inflow peaked at $30 million. The disputed elections in 2000 and continuing political uncertainty helped bring FDI flows down to $13.2 million in 2000 and less than $3 million in 2001. In 2003, Haiti was one of 23 countries that remained on the US "majors" list of countries involved in illicit drug processing and/or illicit drug transit.
Most investment comes from petroleum companies (Texaco, Shell, Esso, and Elf). Other major foreign investors include American Airlines, American Rice Corporation, Citibank, Compagnie Tabac, Continental Grain, Seaboard Marine, and Western Wireless, from the United States; and Royal Caribbean and Scotiabank.
Although its annual national revenue covers basic necessities, the government supports development programs by encouraging loans and by requiring private enterprises to finance development projects. Aided by the United States and various international aid organizations, the government has supported the construction of tourist facilities, public works, and irrigation and the creation of monopolies in cement, sugar marketing, tobacco and lumbering.
The framework for economic policy in 1996 was determined mainly by the passage of a structural reform program and the agreement signed between the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance to curtail financing of the fiscal deficit by the Central Bank. Passage of the structural reform program (which forms the basis for international financial support and includes Civil Service Reform and Modernization of Public Enterprises), proved slow and difficult. The Civil Service Reform prescribed the modalities for a reduction of the civil service by 7,500 employees over a period of 18 months. The Modernization of Public Enterprises program established a legal framework for private sector participation in the state-owned enterprises, in the form of either concession, management contract, and/or capitalization.
Macroeconomic stability, structural and institutional reforms, and poverty alleviation are still the main objectives in Haiti's agenda for the future. The administration has demonstrated its commitment through programs with the International Monetary Fund (IMF); the passage of laws pertaining to structural reforms; coordinated efforts with multilateral and national institutions to design the modernization of the state program; and continuation of programs for poverty alleviation such as the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement. In exchange for the IMF assistance, Haiti in 2003 pledged to reduce spending and stabilize its currency, moves that were expected to pave the way for other financial institutions to release suspended funds to the country (funds were suspended due to flawed legislative elections in 2000, and due to Haiti's state of arrears on its debts).
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, experienced worsening economic and social conditions from 2001–03. About 80% of the population lives in abject poverty. Nearly 70% of all Haitians depend on the agriculture sector, which consists mainly of small-scale subsistence farming and employs about two-thirds of the economically active work force. The country has experienced only moderate job creation in recent years. Failure to reach agreement with multilateral lenders in late 1995 led to rising deficit spending, subsequently increasing inflation, and a drop in the value of the Haitian currency in the final months of 1995. Potential investors, both foreign and domestic, have been reluctant to risk their capital. The government will have to grapple with implementing necessary, although unpopular, economic reforms in order to obtain badly needed foreign aid and improve Haiti's ability to attract foreign capital if the Haitian economy is to gain momentum. Haiti will continue to depend heavily on foreign aid in the medium term.
Foreign aid flows have mainly targeted the garment assembly industry, and were doubled by remittances from abroad (which are estimated to represent over 20% of the country's GDP). The economy was expected to expand by around 2% in 2005, a rate that is far from what is needed to improve the economic situation for the population that is living in abject poverty.
A social welfare program covers employees of industrial, commercial, and agricultural firms funded equally from employee and employer contributions. The government funds any deficit. Retirement is set at age 55. Pensions are also available for survivors and disability. Work injury insurance is funded by the employer. Maternity benefits were first introduced in 1999. A funeral grant of one month's earnings is provided.
Women do not enjoy the same economic and social status as men. Women's rights groups reported in 2004 that rape and other abuses against women increased. The government provides no services for victims of sexual violence. Although the government signed the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the abuse of children is widespread. Many children in Haiti are forced to work as domestic servants in the homes of middle and upper class families.
Haiti has an extremely poor human rights record.
In general, sanitation facilities in Haiti are among the poorest in Latin America. Haiti lacks water in both quantity and quality, with only 46% of the urban population having access to safe water in 2000. City sewerage systems are inadequate and business and residential areas often make use of septic tanks. In 2000, only 28% of Haiti's population had access to adequate sanitation.
As of 2004, there were an estimated 25 physicians, 11 nurses, and 1 dentist per 100,000 people. Half the doctors are in Port-au-Prince and a fourth are in other principal towns, leaving a minimum of medical services for the rural population. In 1999, the government entered into an agreement with Cuba under which 120 Haitians are studying medicine in Cuba, while 500 Cuban health care professionals provide services to Haitians.
Malaria and yaws have been combated by the World Health Organization, while other health programs have been conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Sanitary Mission. Tuberculosis has long been a serious health problem; in 1999, there were about 361 reported cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 inhabitants. Malnutrition and gastrointestinal diseases are responsible for more than half of all deaths. Children may receive vaccinations, but the statistics are very low. Haiti's government did not pay for routine vaccines. Children were vaccinated against tuberculosis, 40%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 35%; polio, 32%; and measles, 30%. Goiter was present in 12.4% of schoolage children in 1996. Some 27% of children were underweight between 1989 and 1995.
Haiti has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the Americas. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 5.60 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 280,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 24,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.
The fertility rate has declined from 6.3 in 1960 to 4.3 children per woman in 2000. An estimated 15% of all births were considered low birth weight. Haiti has the highest maternal mortality rate in the Americas, with 525 maternal deaths per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate fell from 182 per 1,000 live births in 1960 to 73.45 in 2005 and the general mortality rate was estimated at 14.8 per 1,000 in 2002. During 2005, the average life expectancy was estimated at 52.92 years. The birth rate was an estimated 31.4 per 1,000 people in 2002. As of 2000, 28% of women (ages 15 to 49) used some form of contraception. Less than half the population had access to health care services. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 4.2% of GDP.
Although housing projects have been constructed in Port-au-Prince and in Cap-Haïtien, there is an increasing shortage of low-cost housing. Migration to the major cities has compounded the urban housing problem. Natural disaster including cyclones, floods, droughts, and earthquake have had serious effects on the housing situation as well.
Outside the capital and some other cities, housing facilities are generally primitive and almost universally without sanitation. Wooden huts are the prevalent standard for the countryside. The average household includes about five or six people, often living on a two- or three-room dwelling. Over 40% of all homes have dirt floors. About 63% of the population do not have access to clean water or sanitary restroom facilities. The housing deficit has been estimated at one million homes and growing.
By presidential decree, the National Housing Office was established in 1966. Housing built in the 1970s in Port-au-Prince for about 18,000 people merely replaced demolished units. A new cooperative project, supervised by the National Housing Office and financed by UNDP, was initiated in 1979 in St. Martin, on the out-skirts of Port-au-Prince. Housing construction is reported to have proceeded at a steady pace since that time. According to the latest available statistical information, total housing units numbered 890,000, with 6.1 people per dwelling.
Although 80% of the students speak Creole and have only rudimentary knowledge of French, educational programs are mostly conducted in French. The Office of National Literacy and Community Action has the major responsibility for literacy programs throughout the country. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 51.9%, with 53.8% for men and 50% for women. In 1990, public expenditure on education was estimated at 1.4% of GDP.
Education is compulsory for six years (ages 6 to 12). There are two systems of public education. In the traditional (French) system, primary school covers six years and secondary school covers seven years. In the reform system, there are nine years of primary school followed by three years of secondary school. At about age 15, some students may choose to attend a three-year technical school instead of following the classical or professional education tracks of the other systems. The academic year runs from October to June. Primary school enrollment in 1999 was estimated at about 81% of age-eligible students. The student-to-teacher ratio in 1999 was about 31:1 for primary schools.
The Université d'État d'Haïti (Port-au-Prince), dating from 1920, offers the following schools: administration and management, agronomy, economics, ethnology, law, medicine and pharmacy, science, and surveying. There are about two dozen other universities in Haiti, including the Université Jacques Theodore Holly. There are also several vocational training centers and trade schools.
The library of the Brothers of St.-Louis de Gonzage, the finest in Haiti, includes bound newspaper collections covering the 19th and 20th centuries and many rare works of the colonial and republican eras. The Bibliothèque Nationale contains about 26,000 volumes. Le Petit Séminaire, a parochial college, has an excellent library. The government has a wealth of library material dating back to colonial Saint-Domingue in the National Archives and rare papers on the Napoleonic expedition in Haiti in the famous Rochambeau Collection. Private libraries, notably the Mangones Library in Pétionville, make important contributions to Haitian scholarship. There is a French Institute and an American Institute library in Port-au-Prince. The University of Haiti has an important agricultural collection.
The National Museum in Port-au-Prince dates from 1938. The Museum of the Haitian People, also in the capital, has anthropological and folklore collections, and the College of St. Pierre houses the Museum of Haitian Art, which opened in 1972. There is a historical and public affairs museum in the capital as well.
The government owns and operates domestic telephone and telegraph communications. All America Radio and Cables, RCA Global Communications, and Western Union International provide international telephone and telegraph service. In 2003, there were an estimated 17 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 38 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
With low literacy rates and limited television broadcasting, radio is the most important medium for news and information. A 1997 law designates the government as the sole owner of the airwaves; however, the government provides broadcast leases to private operators. In 2004, there were about 307 licensed radio stations and at least 133 unlicensed stations. Most broadcast in French; some offer programming in Creole. In 2005, there were at least three television stations. Television Nationale d'Haiti is a government-owned cultural television station offering programs in Creole, French, and Spanish. Trans-America and PVS Antenne are private stations broadcasting in French. In 2003, there were an estimated 18 radios and 60 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, about 18 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were five secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.
The principal Haitian newspapers (all published in Port-au-Prince) are the three dailies, Le Matin, (2002 circulation, 5,000), Le Nouvelliste (6,000), and L'Union (7,000). Le Moniteur, the official gazette, is published three times a week.
The constitution guarantees free speech and a free press, and the government is said to uphold these freedoms with few exceptions.
Organizational activity in Haiti is limited. The Credit Cooperative of Les Cayes, the only cooperative of any significance, has maintained a sizable membership. There is a chamber of commerce in Port-au-Prince. The Center d'Art, an informal artists' cooperative founded in 1944, has exhibited Haitian artists locally and internationally. There are some professional associations in the country, such as the Association Medicale Haitienne, which serves as both a physician network and an advocacy group for research and education in medicine and healthcare industries.
A national student movement is organized through the National Federation of Haitian Students. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts programs are available, as are branches of the YMCA. There are some sports associations in the country representing a variety of pastimes.
There are branches of the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Rotary, Lion's Club, and the Masonic Order.
Port-au-Prince is a free port for a variety of luxury items. Tourist attractions include white sand beaches, numerous colonial buildings in Port-au-Prince and other cities, and the early 19th-century Citadelle and Sans Souci Palace in Cap-Haïtien. Rapid divorces—granted in 24 to 48 hours—and casino gambling are among the attractions for US residents. Football (soccer) is the national sport, and cockfighting is very popular. Tourist resorts offer facilities for water sports and tennis.
For entry to Haiti, visitors must have a valid passport. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days. In the 1980s and 1990s, tourism was adversely affected by the island's generally depressed economy, political turbulence, and by the alleged link between Haitians and AIDS. The political and civil unrest in 2004 caused the tourism industry to suffer further.
In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Port-au-Prince at $235. Other areas were as low as $129.
The national heroes of Haiti include Pierre Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture (1743–1803), the Precursor; Jean Jacques Dessalines (1758–1806), who defeated Napoleon's army and proclaimed Haitian independence; Alexandre Sabès Pétion (1770–1818), first president of the republic established in southern Haiti; and Henri Christophe (1767–1820), king of Haiti (1811–20), who built the famous Citadelle and Sans Souci Palace. François Duvalier ("Papa Doc," 1907–71), originally trained as a physician, was elected president in 1957 and in 1964 became president for life. His son Jean-Claude Duvalier (b.1951) inherited his father's title in 1971 but was ousted in 1986. Ertha Pascal-Trouillot (b.1943) was the first woman to hold the post of president of Haiti. She held the position for nearly a year, from 1990 to 1991. Jean-Bertrand Aristide (b.1953), a former Roman Catholic priest, succeeded her in 1991, and served again from 1994 to 1996, and then from 2001 to 2004, when he was overthrown in a popular rebellion.
John James Audubon (1785–1851), an artist and ornithologist, was born in Haiti. The writers Éméric Bergeaud (1818–58), Oswald Durand (1840–1906), Philippe Thoby-Marcelin (1904–75), Jacques Roumain (1907–44), and Jean Fernand Brierre (1909–92) have won international literary recognition. Noted poets include the dramatist Pierre Faubert (1803–68), Corolian Ardouin (1812–35), Alibée Féry (1819–96), and Charles-Seguy Villavaleix (1835–1923). Haitian artists include the sculptor Edmond Laforestière (1837–1904); the primitive painter Héctor Hippolyte (1890–1948), leader of the Afro-Art Renaissance in the Caribbean; Wilson Big-aud (b.1931); and Jacques Enguérrand Gourge (1931–1996). Haitian composers include Occide Jeanty (1860–1936) and Justin Elie (1883–1931); Ludovic Lamothe (1882–1953) used voodoo music in his compositions.
Haiti has no territories or colonies.
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