Haiti: in an advanced state of industrial collapse

Addition: Here’s a even more detailed exploration of the root causes behind Haiti’s poverty.  Democracy Now has had years of extensive coverage of the Haitian situation.

Tyler Cowen asked why Haiti is poor.  John Henley’s counts the reasons.

“Haiti has had slavery, revolution, debt, deforestation, corruption, exploitation and violence.  Now it has poverty, illiteracy, overcrowding, no infrastructure, environmental disaster and large areas without the rule of law. And that was before the earthquake.”

Highlights include: 122 years of reparations to France, massive debts to the Americans (to pay off the French), brutal and corrupt military dictatorship laced with voodooism.

Since Haiti’s transition from dictatorship to democracy, some have connected population growth and rapid urbanization to worsening infrastructure.  Others look further back, and are critical of the French colonial legacy and its mismanagement of Haitian land, which in turn lead to deforestation, massive soil erosion, inarable land, and now starvation.

So this is the Haiti we are left with today:

As far back as the 1950s, … Haiti was considered unsustainably overcrowded with a population of 3 million; that ­figure now stands at 9 million. Some 80% of that population live below the poverty line. The country is in an advanced state of industrial collapse, with a GDP per capita in 2009 of just $2 a day. Some 66% of Haitians work in ­agriculture, but this is mainly small-scale subsistence farming and accounts for less than a third of GDP. The unemployment rate is 75%. Foreign aid ­accounts for 30%-40% of the government’s budget. There are 80 deaths for every 1,000 live births, and the survival rate of newborns is the lowest in the western hemisphere. For many adults, the most promising sources of income are likely to be drug dealing, weapons trading, gang membership, kidnapping and extortion.

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