The political crisis in Haiti, which this Wednesday climbed to unsustainable levels with the assassination of president Jovenel Moise, goes hand in hand with its economic history — marked by low income, few opportunities, heavy dependence on foreign aid and constant obstacles to growth. This former French colony in the Antilles, independent since 1804, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, after Nicaragua, and even before the covid-19 pandemic it was already experiencing a paralysis caused by violent social protests. In this nation where 60% of the population lives in poverty, the economic prospects are bleak.
Data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicate that in 2019 Haiti’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 1.7% due to road pickets and violence, which caused weeks of complete economic paralysis. Haitians took to the streets to protest against President Moïse and are still there, two years later, despite the pandemic. The roadblocks have had a severe impact on economic activity, particularly in the tourism industry and export sectors, two central engines of its small economy. The country has just over 11 million inhabitants, and the IMF estimates that in 2021 its economy will grow by just 1%.
In 2020, with the arrival of covid-19, the economy suffered an even larger second contraction, of 3.7% of GDP, according to IMF data. Its currency depreciated almost 30%, which increased the price of fuel purchased in dollars on the international market. Food assistance programs and extreme poverty have grown as the government has imposed strict confinements to contain the virus.
“In early 2020, parts of the country were close to experiencing a humanitarian disaster when the UN launched an appeal for emergency humanitarian assistance that raised less than 10% of the requested amounts,” wrote the IMF in its April report last year. about the country. The fund decided to grant the Government a loan of 111.6 million dollars to support the economic crisis.
Haiti has a very low level of education, due in part to the political instability that the country has been experiencing for decades. In addition, due to its geographic location, it is frequently hit by hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, whose damage hinders growth, as the economy is in a constant state of reconstruction. The World Bank estimates that 90% of the population is at risk of natural disasters.
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