Reducing Poverty and Increasing Development in Haiti


The objective of this research is to develop a thorough understanding of the problem in Haiti and find out what needs to be done to improve the poverty and underdevelopment in Haiti.  As the problem in Haiti is very broad and can be seen from various perspectives certain measures are taken such as defining the perspective of the research to be more specific. Overall, the economic, political and social histories in Haiti were taken into consideration in this research to come out with the proposed solution. 



In order to determine the major obstacles to economic development and poverty reduction, it is important that the problem is defined so that the objective is clear for the solutions to be proposed. For this research, the definition of poverty and development as explained by Amartya Sen in his book ‘Development of Freedom’ are being used as the yardstick to determine the objective and solutions. Poverty as he defined can be identified as deprivation of basic capabilities than merely as lowness of incomes, which is usually standard of identification of poverty. As for development, he measures it in terms of the real freedom that people enjoy. This contrast from the narrower views of development that emphasizes more on the growth of gross national product or the technological advancement of the society. The freedom from his point of view depends on economic arrangements as well as political and civil right. Therefore all the solutions proposed for Haiti in this research are focused on solving poverty and underdevelopment from this perspective.


Statement of research finding

Based on the history and current political situation in Haiti affirmative action needs to be taken and it have to begin now. The best possible solution to resolve poverty and develop Haiti is for it to implement something that is based on a proven model. For Haiti, the solution would be to use the country-based development model introduced by the World Bank as the main reference. The main reason why this model is chosen is because of the broad consensus that the country-based development model. It presents the best prospect for sustained growth and poverty reduction in countries. By strengthening domestic policies and systems, uniting donors behind ambitious goals, and providing a framework for the mutual accountability of stakeholders, this model is also indispensable for realizing international commitments on aid effectiveness and scaling up. 

Proposed Solution

Haiti is not hopeless or doomed to failure. Oxford University economics professor Paul Collier makes this essential and oft-overlooked point in discussions on Haiti in his report on how to establish economic security in Haiti for the United Nations Secretary-General. It is a much-needed change in discourse that, until recently, included the discussion of ‘trusteeship.’ Six years after Jean-Bertrand Ariste’s government was ousted by armed revolt, again the government in Haiti had to be dismissed and this time it is over violent food price protest in the impoverished Caribbean region. It appears that Haiti is getting another chance to enter a new dawn again after its turbulent political past. Situation in the country as it is, is not very encouraging. As the 2008 CIA report states, 80 percent of the population lives under the poverty line. In addition to a staggering 70 percent unemployment rate and a 50 percent rate of illiteracy on the island, almost every water source has become polluted with human waste due to the lack of a sewage sanitation system. The unsettled political situation in Haiti is one of the key factor of the failure in resolving poverty and underdevelopment that has been haunting Haiti for many years. Perhaps the question that arises from this is situation is best put in Simon Fass’s term ‘what has the Haiti’s government done to change the situation of the majority and of the population? Instead of maximizing public welfare the ever-changing administration of Haiti have rather served to maximum the private income of whatever clique that happened to be in power rather than improving the internal situation of Haiti. It is important to acknowledge that all government in the world needs time to produce result. Generally, the introduction and implementation of policies takes time to produce results. Political instability causes the government to become ineffective as it makes it hard for policy to be implemented and for the majority of population to bear the fruit from any policies that are being implemented to help them. To make the situation worse, in Haiti not only the government is ineffective, it is also corrupted. This can be traced from the History that started Haiti’s political instability. Haiti’s state of affairs can be compared to the situation in the Dominican Republic. Both countries experienced similar dictatorship administration. Dominican Republic was under the rule of Trujillo and Haiti was under the rule of Duvalier both dictators that lead their country in the nineteenth century. Ironically both were corrupted leaders that brought in the concept of predatory state in their country. Comparisons between Haiti and Dominican Republic situation under the dictators provide ample illustration of the mechanism that are at work in a predatory state. The economy at both countries was unproductive with profit seeking entities sucking away profits from the people. This was the bad foundation that caused poverty and underdevelopment in which Haiti failed to recover until today.

Another factor that caused poverty and underdevelopment in Haiti is the lack of political capacity. Without a stable political surrounding the administration process is almost impossible. Rules of law for example cannot be upheld. The government is unable to control desperate people in dire state. Latest statistics shows that almost two third of the labor force in Haiti does not have formal job.[1] At the same time, the population is growing rapidly. What comes out from this is the problem of soil erosion. As the population grows, there is a tendency for the agricultural sector to become more labor intensive. What happened in Haiti is that it was not perennial and there were no monitoring. Therefore it contributed to the soil erosion in Haiti. People in Haiti rely on cutting trees to produce house and charcoal to sell. However without proper jurisdiction, severe deforestation have impacted negatively upon Haiti’s environment. Extensive soil erosion has hurt their agriculture and fishing industries, which are the backbone to the country’s economy. Research shows that one-third of the land has lost so much topsoil that it is no longer arable, or barely so. Erosion has also turned the nation's highways into muddy roads, and degradation of rural areas has driven thousands of people into the cities, which are already overwhelmed by poverty and overpopulation. When the backbone of its economy is disrupted it makes it harder for them to get out of poverty moreover developing the country. In terms of agriculture the situation in Haiti is comparable to India’s agriculture industry. In India, the agricultural industry is troubled due to natural disaster such as drought. However India managed to survive this through a revised agricultural strategy that had improved food production.  Natural disaster such as hurricanes makes the already bad situation worse for Haiti. The failure to maintain Haiti’s environment is because there is lack of political capacity. As the economy of Haiti depends a lot on agriculture industry without a reliable environmental condition it cannot be expanded or even started. We can see that as the result from political instability Haiti’s government lacks the capacity to improve the situation. Both factors, the instable political situation and dysfunctional administration have caused poverty and underdevelopment in Haiti to be prolonged.


In his report on Economic Security in Haiti, Paul Collier does not ignore Haiti’s dire circumstances nor does he dismiss the challenges it will confront in 2009. Yet, he concludes that Haiti has “fundamentals that favour economic development’. The proposed solution would be to use the country-based development model introduced by the World Bank as the main reference to combat poverty and increase development. The first reinforcing strand of the country-based development model is the internal factor. Development strategies should be linked to Haiti’s country system, In this case what needs to be done is improving the socioeconomic and sociocultural .To cultivate the economy in Haiti it is important to remember that improving the quality people’s life is the main concern right now. Therefore what I will suggest is for Haiti to revitalize its agricultural and industry. The reason why is because agriculture is the core to the country’s economic development. If the poverty in Haiti were to improve the economy have to change first. An improved agriculture industry not only could recapitalize farms to jumpstart Haiti’s economy but it can also ensure the availability of food crops for the population. This can be done by stimulating agricultural production and encouraging livestock farming. In the short term at least the country’s food crisis can be reduced especially with the rapid growth in population. It is proven if we take the example of how Ghana managed to reduce poverty through improving its agricultural industry. Recent analyses by the World Bank, of the Ghana Living Standards Surveys in 1987-88 and 1991-92 reveal that the headcount index of poverty declined from 37 percent in 1987-88 to 32 percent in 1991-92. Rural poverty fell from 42 percent to 34 percent. The remarkable success by Ghana could be emulated by Haiti if things are done accordingly.


The first strand concentrate on national-driven solution or internal factor whereas the second strand will concentrate on the external factors. To recover Haiti needs to get support from outside. Over the years, overseas donor aid in Haiti hasn’t been consistent making it tough to predict the amount of budget that is available for the country. It is not hard to imagine the damage inflicted on development policies and nascent institution by the inconsistent nature of these flows. In this case, again the success of more stable countries can be a benchmark to be followed by Haiti. Tanzania and Ghana for example have managed to work closely with the donors. Donors will state the funding in advance at least a year before budget formulation. As a result a more reliable budget can be planned for a more efficient implementation. Foreign aids are extremely important for Haiti in as it provides a financial foundation, which is essential to combat poverty and increase development. With support from the United Nations Tanzania has costed the implementation of development to its priority sector such as agriculture, water and health. The similarities of the priority sector in Tanzania and Haiti could give an indication that if it could help Tanzania, it can also improve the situation in Haiti. Relating from the first strand of the country-based development which is the internal factor, what the external factor can do is complement the internal factor. In other words foreign aids can help Haiti develop its priority sectors. The role of non-governmental institution is also needed. The poverty in Haiti comprises all aspect of life. Therefore the role of the international donor should not be limited to only helping the country financially. Humanitarian help is also needed. Haiti is deprived of basic needs such as clean water, healthcare and also education. In order to help the country to work all these basic need shall be restored. It is not impossible if non-governmental organization such as UNICEF and Amnesty international comes out with a proactive measure to resolve the humanitarian problem in Haiti.


All the proposed solution cannot be implemented without the Haitian government playing an affective role. Robert Maguire in his article “Towards the End of Poverty in Haiti’ suggested that government participation is needed in identifying needs, priorities and approaches from international community to combat poverty. In doing so the government must be free of corruption. Haiti is rank 177 out of 180 in the latest corruption perception index a clear sign that corruption is very serious in the country.[2] This is something that has to be recognized as a threat to Haiti’s progress in reducing poverty and increasing development. Without sufficient confidence in the government it might be harder for them to receive international aid. Another negative impact would be inefficient allocation of resources. A corrupt regime will distribute resources only to those that can benefit them. In this, the population will suffer the burden due to a corrupt regime. Another priority of the government would probably include the judicial reform and improved public health in Haiti. What Haiti needs now is a functioning government. A government that is able to allocate resources efficiently and at the same time increases economic activity. A country that does not easily slip into sustained political stability is proven to be successful in reducing poverty. Take Mexico for example the population in poverty has decreased from 24.2% to 17.6% in the general population and from 42% to 27.9% in rural areas from 2000-2004.[3] Mexico is a pivotal case of political and economic transition for the developing world and it can set a model for countries such as Haiti that faces same kind of challenge.[4]


The situation in Haiti might not be encouraging. Things certainly can be improved. There are countries such as Ghana, Mexico and Bangladesh that faced similar problem as Haiti and have the identical economical structure but managed to reduce poverty and increase development in their own way. It is important that any implementation in Haiti follows the right and proven economic model. International community should also play a role in helping to set up the foundation to Haiti’s solution. The more important thing is that Haiti’s government needs to revamp itself to be relevant and proactive in finding solutions to achieve the objective of reducing poverty and increasing development for the people. They shall not curse the darkness but light up a candle for it will benefit the Haitians more.

















1)    Alex Dupuy, 'Spanish Colonialism and the Origin of Underdevelopment in Haiti', Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 3, No. 2, (Spring, 1976), 5-29


2)    Gilburt Loescher and John Scanlan, 'Human Rights, U.S. Foreign Policy, and Haitian Refugees', Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 26, No. 3, (Aug., 1984), 313-356


3)    Gerard Pierre-Charles and Margaret Low, 'The Democratic Revolution in Haiti', Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 15, No. 3, (Summer, 1988), 64-76


4)    Mats Lundahl, 'History as an Obstacle to Change: The Case of Haiti', Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 31, No. 1/2, (Spring - Summer, 1989),  1-21


5)    Mats Lundahl, 'Underdevelopment in Haiti: Some Recent Contributions', Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 23, No. 2, (May, 1991),411-429


6)    Clifford E. Griffin, 'Haiti's Democratic Challenge', Third World Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 4, (1992), 663-673


7)    Ministers of Foreign Affairs Resolution 3/92: Restoration of Democracy in Haiti', The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 86, No. 3, (Jul., 1992), 667-669


8)    Lundahl M Staff, Mats Lundahl ‘Politics Or Markets: Essay Haiti’

         Routledge, 2002, 13-255



9)    Haiti’s Economic Challenge by Robert Perito and Emily Hsu July 2006


10)  CIA World Factbok-Last Updated 14 May 2009





12)Paul Collier’s reports on Haiti Economic Security by Robert Maguire March 2009


13)  Faced Behind Poverty State by Kimberly Alzuphar Columbia Spectator

14)  Mark Kesselman, Joel Krieger and William A. Joseph (eds.), Introduction to Comparative Politics (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006) 472-517

[1] Data by CIA World Fact book

[2] Based on 2008 CPI data by Transparency International

[3] El Universal, 2005-08-24

[4] Kesselman et al. Chapter 10

Disclaimer:If i failed to acknowledge anyone in this research please inform me it is not done intentionally. 

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