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Haiti’s Economic Development and Growth

The Caribbean culture has extreme diversity from all around the world. The colonization and the current demographics demonstrate the differentiating factors that were involved when this area was founded. Through the commencement of these nations, the island of Hispaniola was found by Christopher Columbus on December 5th, 1942. The island Hispaniola consists of Dominican Republic and Saint Dominique also known as Haiti. These two neighboring countries still consists of similar cultural values but are extremely still different. While the colonists were the same, the border was created because of how the island was colonized.

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The history of Hispaniola began with the Arawak’s that already inhabited the land. Subsequently, when Columbus came to the island, he landed on the eastern side which is now known as Dominican Republic. The western side was vastly empty and was not fully colonized until the French came in 17th century. They inhabited this section of the land and in 1664 the French founded Port-de-Paix. Consequently, the French and the Spanish signed the Treaty Ryswick in 1697 that ended up dividing the island into two: Haiti and Dominican Republic. The different cultures that emerged on this island of Hispaniola created a legacy that is still grounded today. While economically during the 18th century, Saint Dominique thrived in their exports; this prosperity was heavily dependent on slavery. The biggest exports of this colony were sugar, cotton, indigo, and cocoa (Lambert) that were dependent on the import of slavery. Generally, the demographics of the island were both French and mixed-race societies, however there was nearly half a million black slaves.

Comparatively, the French and Spaniard cultures created the cultures that have evolved a unique one of its own. Because of the differentiating factors of both French, Spanish, and African heritage it became Haitian culture mixed with creole, and French as the two main languages. In the economical aspect, colonists created a rich foundation of exports but did not plan for political and societal factors. Much of Haiti’s independence came from the civil war between those who supported the monarchy of republicanism, along with the Hispanic people that inhabited the eastern side of the island. Because of the colonization being so unbalanced on the cultural spectrum, Haitians now are both black, French, Spanish and some American descent. Those who are seen to be of a “less” African descent are economically and physically portrayed in a higher standing. As a matter of fact, Haiti represents the lowest per capita income and America has the highest per capita according to Thayer Watkins of the San Jose Department of Economics. This was all initially developed because their independence derived from much blood shed between the slave rebellion and the notion of the black vs. white affair. The colonist left the tension and superiority of those who were mulattoes and those who came from Africa. In addition to these slaves, the mulattoes also played a critical role in property business as landowners (Watkins 1). Traditionally, these slaves were taken from the Western side of Africa, mostly from the region of Dahoumey. This region heavily practiced the religion of Voodoo that was in turn adapted and still is practiced in Haiti today. Inevitably, this great influence of western African slaves in Haiti not only left their culture but this religion that is still performed today.

Uniquely, during the 18th century, the French government in Haiti was producing more than half of the coffee in the world and over 40% of sugar for both France and Britain, because of the heavy influence of slaves. Due to the lack of hygienic practices there was many epidemics that would increase the mortality rate making it an increase and demand for more slaves to come to the island. Without the labor of these slaves Haiti’s global trading market would have been a downfall during these times. For France’s foreign market during the 1800’s, Haiti accounted for over 40% of their global economy; France was the dominant economy of Europe at this time. Of course, since this was a French colony, doing business here was facilitated because of the government was French, but when they gained their own independence it became a struggle to trade easily back and forth with the previous owner of these two countries on this one island. Although when Henri Christophe was made president, he made great effort to keep and revive the export economy of Haiti. He did so by keeping the freed slaves at working plantations and this improved export production.

Currently, Haiti has no exports of sugar and coffee because of distribution of small parts of the lands to farmers. The most recent economic increase was the tourism industry that lasted too soon, and it was decreasing because of Haiti’s relationship with AIDS and the corrupt government. While their government was based off of corruption and theft, and to an extent still is- they have attracted manufacturing assembly lines (Watkins 1) because of the low wage rates. Comparatively, Haiti is one of the few countries that can be put side to side with China relative to their pay scale rates. In addition to these manufacturing operations, Haiti was aided by changing the tariff rules that would allow these products that were assembled from US sources would be able to re-enter the US without duties imposed on them. However, this is not to say that because of these manufacturing opportunities Haiti has increased their economic growth, rather they have actually decreased, and their citizens are living on the edge financially and physically. One of the most infamous external factors to affect Haiti was the Earthquake of January 12th, 2010. Recently making a decade anniversary for this earthquake, this island is still making reparations and has not fully recovered from all the damages made. A large example was the unfortunate tragedy of lives loss in this earthquake totaling to over one hundred thousand people. Evidently, this left those who survived with an extreme lack of water, food, and shelter making Haiti the most vulnerable in its history.

Not only was this the worst earthquake this country has had, but it debellated the economy and societal living structure more than ever before. Generally, the economic status of Haiti was already at a downfall; after this earthquake it decreased Haiti’s Gross domestic product by 5.1% (W.E). While this external factor did affect Haiti’s economy greatly, for the US it was not even slightly affected. Largely, their greatest export was the apparel industry that boosted Haiti’s economy in 2008 by reaching $575 million. In the article “Haiti Earthquake Facts, Its Damage, and Effects on the Economy” by Kimberly Amadeo explains how the American government partnered up with Haiti’s government and Bush signed a Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity Through Partnership Encouragement Act in 2006 that allowed Haiti’s apparels exports to be duty-free in the states. Although the Haitian government was not a loud voice in politics, the American government aided their economy greatly again when they extended the Caribbean Basin Trade Preference Agreement in 2010 (Amadeo 1) to allow and increase the economic stability of these Caribbean countries. The main point of the Caribbean Basin Trade Initiative was to assure these countries exports came into the US duty free. Empowering the government’s economy with the aid of American agreements has slightly improved their finances however their citizens are still in the lack of basic surviving needs.

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Because of the earthquake of 2010, the government in the capital of Port-au-Prince was and still is under renovation. The government as mentioned before was built on corruption and maintains this idea of disparity between the rich and the poor. It is obvious that the government does not focus on the overall quality of life of their citizens. Whereas many environmental issues make it difficult for this country to improve, the government could do more for its own people with their growth and development. In this case, corruption continues to increase poverty with biased tax systems and decreased economic growth rates. For example, women in this country


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