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Development Issues in Haiti

Haiti has many development issues to discuss that concern economic, social, environmental, and other aspects of the Haitians’ life. The greatest problem of the region that comprises all mentioned spheres is poverty. Its nature is conditioned by numerous factors, but to a greater extent certain political events and governmental discrepancies are responsible for the high poverty levels in Haiti. The statistical data shows that “in 2012 more than one in two Haitians was poor, living on less than $2.41 a day, and one person in four was living below the national extreme poverty line of $1.23 a day” (The World Bank, 2014, p. 1). The indices prove that the scale of the problem is great and if the government does not take the effective measures, the situation will progress and Haiti will become the poorest country in the world. The current paper examines the reasons of poverty in Haiti and strives to offer some possible solutions.

Haiti is a developing country that passes a complicated period of establishment. Therefore, a poverty level may be high. Unfortunately, the number of poor people in Haiti has always been significant, regardless of the economic changes or even the earthquake in 2012 that brought enormous destructions (Dupuy, 2010). There are main objective causes of the problem. The first reason is related to the fact that Haiti has long been occupied by the USA. As a result, it had to overcome many negative consequences: “By the time the U.S. pulled out in 1934, Haiti’s own institutions had atrophied” (Smith, 2015, para. 2). The second cause has a historic explanation and refers to the Duvalier’s time: “a large number of educated professionals left the country during the Duvalier regimes, and the period that followed was so unstable, it was hard to lay down roots and build infrastructure” (Smith, 2015, para. 3). There are also some economic and social reasons of poverty in Haiti. Thus, an unpredictable growth of Haiti’s population (for example, in Port-au-Prince the number of citizens grew from 150.000 to 4 million) was badly managed by the government as it could not offer the fulfillment of the simplest services to the population (Dupuy, 2010). As a result, “only about 28 percent of Haitians have access to health care, 54 percent to potable water, 30 percent to sanitation” (Dupuy, 2010, p.195). The historic background of Haiti’s development and the government that could not react to the growing difficulties effectively became the reasons of a high poverty level in the country.

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There is no doubt that Haiti’s government is aware of the existing poverty problem and tries to take some actions. However, the consequences of such actions are negative. An intention of Haiti’s government to thank the USA, Canada, and France for the military aid in the times of Duvalier, turned “Haiti into a supplier of the cheapest labor in this hemisphere for foreign and domestic investors in the export assembly industry and one of the largest importers of the U.S. food in the hemisphere” (Dupuy, 2010, p. 196). The Haitians suffered most of all from the actions of their government as the wages decreased, taxes increased and the public-sector employment dramatically reduced (Dupuy, 2010). It is possible to conclude that the Haitian government applied some efforts to fight poverty, but they all were poorly developed.

In case of Haiti, the groups that definitely benefited from the crises were the owners of great assembly industries (as they received an opportunity to hire cheap labor force from the rural areas) and those who were involved in the informal sector (Dupuy, 2010). Such people have become “the richest 10 percent of the population, who control 47 percent of national income, and 2 percent hold 26 percent of the nation’s wealth” (Dupuy, 2010, p. 195). The categories of the citizens, who were harmed due to the existing situation included farmers (as the turned into rice and a crops importer), a middle-class, who claims at high taxation, and rural inhabitants, who did not move to the cities (Prospery, 2013). The poverty situation in Haiti has become critical as “the prices of basic goods and food have gone up again” (Prospery, 2013, para. 3) and “there are still 1.5 million people in Haiti experiencing severe malnutrition” (Prospery, 2013, para. 1). The research demonstrates that there are significant population inequalities in Haiti. My personal opinion about the persistence of the problem is that the government thinks more about paying debts to other countries and not about fighting the problem of poverty. In order to improve the situation, the government should implement a number of reforms to reconstruct the country’s agricultural sector, increase the level of employment and salaries, and reduce the taxes.

Nowadays, developed countries make efforts to help Haiti overcome its difficulties, especially after the great earthquake of 2010. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the USA has developed a plan (report) for rebuilding Haiti. “Haiti needs to be rebuilt in a sustainable way that considers the long-term future of the country and the people” (Schaaf, 2010, para. 5). The report contains some general recommendations regarding the plan to make the country’s rebuilding effective and pass without mistakes: “A recurring theme is the tension between the desire for the Haitian government to lead and the reality that, without increased human and technical resources, it will not be able to do so” (Schaaf, 2010, para. 1).  First of all, the Senate offers to form an image of the Haitian government as an effective leader in the eyes of the population. In such case, all governmental decisions will be supported. The U.S. efforts to assist Haiti should be well coordinated with the actions of the Haitian government. It is important to make more people from all social classes participate in the country’s recovery as poverty is a national problem and not an individual issue (Schaaf, 2010). The recommendations mentioned in the U.S. report are valuable for Haiti as they contribute to the Haitians’ understanding of uniting common efforts to rebuild the country.

In my opinion, the general initiator of well-elaborated recommendations is the Senate, which makes them a reliable frame for additional suggestions offered by the World Bank. A real picture of poverty in Haiti described by the Bank shows that: “extreme poverty declined from 31 to 24 percent between 2000 and 2012, and there have been some gains in access to education and sanitation, although access to basic services is generally low and is characterized by important inequalities” (The World Bank, n. d., p. 1). Special technical agencies of Haiti calculated that almost 6.3 million Haitians cannot meet even the most basic requirements. Such information proves that fighting poverty in Haiti needs some special approach that will cover all areas separately. Thus, as the unemployment rates in the country are high, it is needed to educate young adults to ensure professional diversity and better salaries: “Education plays a critical role in improving welfare in urban areas: labor income is, on average, 28 percent higher among individuals who have completed primary education than among uneducated individuals” (The World Bank, p. 13). The second recommendation is “Participation in the nonfarm sector as a key to emerging from poverty in rural Haiti” (The World Bank, p. 3). The current point may seem controversial at the first sight. However, rural areas rely on farming only and receive minimal outcomes due to the fact that the technologies used by farmers are outdated. Working in manufacture will help promote productive farming. The last factor that contributes to the poverty reduction in Haiti is internal and external migration that may statistically result in some sort of income growth in case the immigrant is educated. Thus, the World Bank offers three general areas for fighting poverty in Haiti, namely policies to boost household incomes, facilitating access to education and healthcare, and better social protection and risk management (The World Bank, 2015). Being a college student, I support the recommendations of the World Bank given to Haiti in the framework of the U.S. Senate. Moreover, I would also issue some strategies for separate Haiti institutions. Thus, medical establishments should function properly and provide healthcare access to all Haitians equally. In addition, the educational institutions should find ways to offer some grants and special programs for educating low-income citizens. However, it is possible to perform such plans only in case of governmental support.

Taking all the above-mentioned facts into consideration, it is significant to affirm that high poverty levels in Haiti are partially conditioned by the government, which could not act as a good leader and take reasonable decisions. Anyway, the issue is also influenced by some environmental factors (numerous earthquakes, etc.). The only possible solution of the poverty issues in Haiti may be independent and effective governmental actions aimed at reforming education, medicine, a social sector, and improving the financial situation. The aid offered by some developed countries can form a valuable contribution to overcoming the crisis in Haiti in case the government will be able to predict all the consequences of such assistance. Haiti may become successful in cases when the government starts caring about people, the citizens cooperate to build a prosperous country, and other developed states provide aid to Haiti in order to save Haitians and not to receive benefits by aggravating the situation.