Unemployment is rampant with two thirds of the population lacking formal jobs.
Haiti’s economy is very tied to agricultural production with about two thirds of the employed working in agriculture. In spite of this fact there are significant disparities between agricultural production and farmers’ ability to feed the nation. Another significant factor in Haiti’s economy has been the repeated intervention of foreign governments which have influenced the economy.
This process began hundreds of years ago with the destruction of the native people and the influx of African slaves and the establishment of the plantation system overseen by European nations. During this period forests and native plants were cleared out so that slaves could cultivate sugar cane for export. This process began the destruction of the viability of the land for future agriculture with massive erosion destroying the fertile topsoil. Those in charge of the slave population, ignorant of this dilemma, assumed that the steep reduction in farming efficiency was related to an overpopulation of slaves and did nothing to prevent or delay the steady destruction of arable land. In the most recent land use surveys 45 percent of the land in Haiti is considered non-arable with only one third of land considered valuable for farming and another 18 percent usable for pasture.1
The agricultural practices of Haiti have long been focused on growing ‘cash crops’ (sugar, coffee, etc.) for export. Currently the largest crops produced for export include coffee, mangoes and sugar with small amounts of bananas, corn and a few other products.
The economic disparity between cash crops and food crops for the Haitian people is particularly evident related to foreign aid and Haiti’s own rice production. According to a Haitian government assessment in 1995, the most recent available, approximately 51 percent of Haiti’s sustenance crops come from import via well-intentioned foreign aid or import. This includes 80 percent of all rice consumed in the nation.2 Rice has only become a staple in the Haitian diet in the last several decades, in part due to the radical slashing of import tarriffs under pressure from Washington DC in the mid 1990s.3 This has created a non-viable situation for Haitian farmers who cannot compete with the cheap imports at the market. Approximately 91% of all exports from Haiti are sent to the US with approximately 51% of imports, primarily food, coming from the United States.4
Haiti’s GDP is dominated by the service industry generating nearly 60% of the annual GDP, followed by agriculture which produces another 25% of wealth in the nation. Haiti has a small manufacturing industry which produces beverages, butter, cement, detergent, edible oils, flour, refined sugar, soap, and textiles, and contributes about 16% of the GDP.5 Haiti also has a small mining industry which exports minerals such as bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, and marble.
Unemployment, following the earthquake, is rampant with two-thirds of the population lacking formal jobs.6 There is a profound need for skilled labor in many sectors of the economy which has been compounded by the destruction of educational institutions following the quake. The US State Department estimates the damages of the quake to be $11.5 billion – which equates to 173% of Haiti’s GDP.7
Haiti must put her trust in the Lord—God alone can revive this dying economy. Pray that He brings true prosperity to their land.