State of Development in Haiti
Since proclaiming its independence in 1804, Haiti has suffered from various challenges including isolation from world markets, oppressive dictatorships, prejudicial international trade policies, and devastating natural disasters. Economic growth and socioeconomic development have been consistently stymied by political instability and corruption since the US occupation in the early 1900s. This unpopular foreign occupation was only replaced by the terrorizing Duvalier regime. Democracy took a back seat; free speech and the freedom to demonstrate against all kinds of injustices perpetrated by the government-backed militia or tonton macoutes were practically forbidden. The underlying result from those years is the emergence of a society whose members have been traumatized, and a country without any functioning democratic institutions. The departure into exile of Baby Doc in 1986 saw the coming to power of a military junta, which was followed by a series of democratically elected presidents. Yet, democracy remains a fleeting concept in Haiti. Recently Haiti’s political rights rating has consistently decreased due to its failure to hold constitutionally mandated parliamentary and municipal elections for three years, failure to hold a successful presidential election, manipulation of the judicial system for political expediency and tolerance of violence against human rights groups, government protestors, and the media.
From 1980 to 2014 development in Haiti has remained relatively the same, despite the minimal gains in education and health
The seemingly permanent state of political instability has had a direct negative consequence on the country’s economy. Haiti’s impoverishment has been alarming in the thirty years since Duvalier left the country. GDP per capita remains at U.S. $846, with more than 6 million out of 10.4 million people living under US$2.42 per day and 24% of the population living in extreme poverty. Furthermore, the limited GDP growth (2.0%) that has taken place is attributed to remittances and construction projects both unstable sources of revenue. This growth is largely only felt by the upper echelons of Haitian society, as Haiti is grossly unequal with a Gini coefficient of 0.61. The current reality is a bleak picture; record high unemployment rates with over 2/3 of the labor force without formal jobs,severe devaluation of the local currency, over importation of goods and services—severely impacting local production, an overall decrease in the quality of life for most Haitians, and many Haitian professionals leaving the country for greener pastures. Consequently, with no access to government-sponsored social programs and other safety net systems, a significant number of Haitians living in Haiti have felt emotionally detached and not invested in the country’s future.
The true nature of poverty can be felt most deeply in rural communities throughout the country where over 60% of the population lives. This is most clearly evidenced by Haiti’s ranking on the Human Development Index at 163 of 188 countries on the list. A deteriorating health system and lack of access to clean water and sanitation have produced an extremely low life expectancy of 62.8 years. Many Haitians lack basic access to quality and affordable education. In Haiti, the average schooling is only 8.7 years with a literacy rate of 60.7% of the population. Without access to government programs, individuals and families rely upon their communities to provide them the support and services they need to survive on a daily basis.