Economy and energy
Haiti has a market economy that should enjoy the benefits of low labor costs, subsidized oil prices and free access to the US market for most of its exports. In reality, poverty, corruption, vulnerability to natural disasters and the lack of a skilled and educated workforce paralyze the country and tend to frustrate any small progress. The earthquake of January 2010 destroyed the already fragile Haitian economy and prompted the government to launch a reconstruction strategy for the country which includes the creation of an efficient public administration, the development of infrastructures and a plan to modernize the agricultural sector.
In 2011, the Haitian economy had slowly begun to recover from the effects of the earthquake and had registered a GDP growth rate of 5.6%. In 2012, however, the damage caused to agricultural production by two different hurricanes and insufficient public investment blocked economic recovery and reduced the growth rate to 2.8%. In 2014 the figure stood at 2.7% annual growth; in 2015 it dropped further to 2.5%, reflecting the fluctuating trend of the Haitian economy.
Agriculture is the most important sector: two fifths of the population depend on it. Coffee, sisal, sugar, cocoa, beans, millet, sorghum, rice and corn are the products of the Haitian land. A mere subsistence agriculture is still practiced, which contributes only 26% to the national GDP and which does not produce income or form part of official statistics.
According to indexdotcom, in the north-east department there are gold and copper deposits, but the extraction has not yet reached significant levels. The industrial sector is backward and limited to textiles. The main source of foreign currency is remittances, accounting for almost 20% of GDP and about double the export earnings. Due to its limited infrastructure and its precarious security, Haiti is unable to attract investment: the Martelly administration has tried to tackle the problem by also focusing on tourism.
Haiti has no hydrocarbon reserves and is one of the countries with the lowest per capita energy consumption rates in the world. Electricity, to which only 12.5% of the population officially has access, is produced for almost 80% by hydroelectric power plants and the remaining 20% by thermal power plants. In most of the country, on the other hand, and especially in the mountainous areas of the interior, the lack of infrastructures prevents continuous access to the electricity grid for the majority of the population, which therefore continues to use wood as primary fuel. The consequence is unstoppable and harmful deforestation.
Defense and security
After the long dictatorship of François and Jean-Claude Duvalier (‘Papa Doc’, 1957-1971, and ‘Baby Doc’, 1971-1986) ended in 1986, Haiti experienced a period of strong instability, with a continuous alternation between democratic elections and military coup, until 1994. In September of the same year a multinational mission (Multinational Force in Haiti, Mnf) led by the United States and approved by the United Nations, composed of 21,000 soldiers from 31 different countries and a thousand international observers, favored the establishment of a constitutional government, led by the former Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
In the following October, the Haitian army was dismantled and replaced by a new police force. The Mnf was replaced by a United Nations peacekeeping mission (UNMIH), made up of 38 countries and with the task of supervising public order and democratic processes in the country. From 1 June 2004, after a new coup that deposed Aristide and caused a new period of violence and instability, the United Nations launched a mission to consolidate the country (Minustah), which in its initial stages deployed 6700 soldiers and 2066 units of the civil police.
To this day the situation remains precarious. A riot also broke out in 2012 between former Haitian army members and younger recruits who supported veterans. However, even with the help of 9,000 blue helmets, the government managed to keep the situation under control. In October 2014 M inustah fell to actual 4971, of which 2,370 soldiers and 2,601 policemen around, while in October 2015 the Security Council U n extended the mandate of the mission until October 2016.
On the international level, unresolved security problems concern clandestine emigration and the fight against cocaine trafficking: police checks are not sufficient to curb irregular flows abroad, or even to counter the drug trafficking which, en route between North and South America, it finds an important base of support in Haiti.