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Haiti is a country of great social and economic potential. Many of Haiti’s hardworking and industrious citizens are eager to join the global economy.

The country has tremendous assets: beautiful beaches and majestic mountains, waterfalls, and historical monuments; its rich culture, especially its literature, is one of the best and most innovative in the francophone world. Its music, painting and crafts; its hospitality and tasty cuisine; its strong independent life-force and an entrepreneurial spirit bode well to Haiti’s potential for a dynamic development. .

These features coupled with a stronger, more effective and ethical governance, a vigorous and comprehensive program for improving the country’s security, infrastructure, agricultural production, and technological advances would spur high economic growth. 

Today’s reality for most Haitians, however, is that only about a quarter of its 11 million inhabitants have access to formal education and a steady income. The other 75 percent are mired in poverty, struggling to survive.

These circumstances make the majority of Haitians vulnerable to poor health and malnutrition, social and economic exploitation, corruption and violence, failing infrastructure, deforestation, the effects of climate change, and other forms of environmental destruction which, in turn, make the country even more vulnerable to natural and manmade disasters.

Furthermore, instead of feeding itself and the world, from fertile Caribbean soils – which has been damaged but can be restored –  Haiti imports 70 percent of its basic food staples, as it was forced to lift all import taxes, which opened its market to heavily subsidized products from abroad, particularly from the United States. This contributes to Haiti’s heavy dependence on foreign aid, perpetuating the unfortunate title of the “poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.”

Haiti is so much more than that. Its people have always been proud, innovative, resourceful and fiercely independent. In fact, those attributes won them independence in 1804 when enslaved people of African origin won against their French slave owners and colonizers. That revolution made Haiti the world’s first independent Black republic.

But challenging the colonial world order came with dire consequences that still impact Haiti’s development today. In 1825, under the threat of invading Haiti again, the French colonial powers forced Haiti to pay a “restitution” to the former slave owners it had overthrown.  Moreover, the implications that Haiti’s independence could have on other countries and colonies dependent on slave labor, such as the United States, sided with France and, together, declared an embargo on the newly independent Haiti that lasted 50 years.  The “debt” to France cost Haiti the equivalent of 21 billion in today’s dollars.  Paying this egregious “debt,” and facing the embargo, depleted Haiti’s economy and stunted its growth.

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