Haiti is a western hemisphere country in the Caribbean, which is located on the western side of the Hispaniola Island. The republic of Haiti gained its independence from the French in 1804. However with all the natural resources endowment and a huge labor base, Haiti is the poorest country in the region with the most unstable government. On 12th January 2010, Haiti was hit by a massive earthquake of a magnitude of 7.0. The earthquake’s death toll was more than 250,000. Most of the residential and commercial buildings were damaged severely or destroyed. The infrastructure was crippled, and the provision of the essential services was hampered. Following the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. There was a cholera outbreak due to insufficiency of potable water and poor health conditions in the informal settlements(Nicole Rencoret).
Today, more than four years from the devastating earthquake, the victims of the disaster are still not fully resettled. The infrastructure system is still not fully functional and most of the countries occupants live in abject poverty(Nicole Rencoret). This grave state of the economy can directly be attributed to historical events that took place since the revolution that freed the nation from slavery. These historical events engineered the destiny of the Haitians leading to the current state of misery that is experienced in the present.
Historical Events That Affect Haiti’s Present
- The 1825 settlement between Haiti and France
One of the historical events having a direct effect to the miserable state of the economy and the slow healing from the 2010 earthquake is the 1825 settlement between Haiti and France. However, the independence came with a cocktail of misfortunes as the international boycott of the products from Haiti. The Europeans viewed freeing of the slaves as a dangerous thing to do. Following the boycott, the economy of the republic of Haiti suffered greatly. The embargoes that were placed on the nation were making it difficult for the country to progress.
The government of the republic of Haiti sought a solution to this hurdle. The only way to have the trade bans lifted was by recognition from France and the Europeans. In 1825, France offered to lift the trade embargoes that had been placed on the nation. This was on the condition that the Haitian government would pay an indemnity to the France government for the loss of property and labor in Haiti. The sum claimed; 150 million francs was more than five times the export revenue of Haiti at the time. In order to settle the debt, Haiti had to source a debt from the government of France at incredibly high interest rates. It took the country until 1947 to fully clear the debt.
Effect of the debt to the destiny of Haiti
In the process of paying the debt, Haiti had paid the equivalent of the same amount borrowed in interest. This massive debt payout had the effect of suffocating the coffers of the republic of Haiti. At any one time, almost 50% of the Haitian government revenue went to paying the external debt. This means that the ability to carry out sustainable development projects and infrastructure upgrades was clipped. The nation virtually stagnated economically as the population continued to grow. As a result, the nation’s foundation was weak, and Haiti didn’t have the capacity to establish sound infrastructural structures in place to cater for the growing population.
As a result of the pressure on the economy by the debt and a growing population, the standards of living were lowered, and the economy was crippled. The young nation was stalled by their former colonial master. As a result, to date the standards of living are still low and Haiti remains one of the poorest nations in the Caribbean region. Haiti has experienced a hard time picking itself up from the disaster four years ago since its fate was sealed when the country was forced to purchase its economic diplomacy by the France government. This past event weakened the economic foundation of the infant nation and it could not pick speed in time after independence. Its fate was sealed when the debt was imposed.
- The relationship between the United States of America and Haiti (1915 to 1934)
The second historical event having a direct effect to the miserable state of the economy and the slow recovery from the 2010 earthquake is the relationship between the United States of America. The United States of America marines occupied the republic of Haiti starting 1915. This was done in order to minimize the influence of the Germans and to protect the interest of the American investors who had invested and advanced loans to the government of the republic of Haiti. The government of the day was anti-America hence the prospects of the loan repayment were frail, and the US government decided to intervene in 1915.
Following the invasion, all the revenue collection machinery and the banks were now controlled by the marines. This included the main reserve bank of the united republic of Haiti. The United States of America marines decided who could own property in Haiti and how the property could be owned. A system of mandatory labor was also introduced for the Haitians. The Haitians who resisted the occupation were killed.By the end of the American occupation of Haiti, approximately 15000 citizens of Haiti had been killed. The only part of the society structure that the Americans were unable to infiltrate was the education system since it was deeply rooted in the French ways.
Effects of the US occupation to the future of Haiti
At the end of the occupation, the economic oppression was carried on by the militias who had been trained by the US marines. These militias formed juntas which were responsible for coups that destabilized the economy of the republic of Haiti. In addition to this, the United States continually helped corrupt and oppressive governments to stay in powerthrough their numerous interruptions . As a result, the economic oppression inflicted by the France-Haiti settlement in 1825 was propagated over the years.The country remained in a state of stagnation weakening its economic foundation. This eliminated the prospects of any future economic liberation.
The US occupation returned the era of slavery to Haiti in the name of a constitution that had been engineered to propagate oppression of this third word country.The US government continually placed who they wanted in power to control their interests. As a result, the growth of Haiti’s economy and social structures was hampered. The US occupation of Haiti still haunts them to the present and recovering from the 2010 disaster has been challenging because the country was intentionally propelled to economic vulnerability.
- The Duvalier dictatorships of 1957-1986
The third historical event having a direct effect to the miserable state of the economy and the slow recovery from the 2010 earthquake is the Duvalier dictatorships of 1957-1986. This reign that lasted for nearly thirty years saw the embezzlement of public funds and grave cases of corruption in the republic. It is alleged that the Duvalier dictatorship robbed more than 1billio dollars from the coffers of the national treasury. The dictatorship enjoyed staunch support from the United States of America government.
Effect of the dictatorship to the future of Haiti
The policies advanced by the dictatorship set a doomed path for the economy of Haiti. In addition to the massive embezzlement, the dictatorship also formulated an economic plan that saw the country shift from agriculture to manufacturing and exports. This was an ill-advised move that cost the economy of the republic of Haiti. The agricultural output dwindled and, as a result, Haiti became dependent on other countries for food aid. Haiti became vulnerable economically; a trait that was inherited by the successive governments. As a result, it could not with stand the effect of the natural disaster that was experienced in 2010.
In conclusion, a combination of unfortunate historical events and external influence hold the reigns of Haiti’s destiny. These events have propagated oppression to democracy, poverty, economic difficulties, and externally fuelled political instability. The political glitches and vulnerability of the social structures can be traced to historical injustices that went uncorrected. These successive events from independence weakened the economic and social foundation of Haiti. The historical events set Haiti’s course on a doomed path that saw it to economic vulnerability.
Alexander, Leslie. "A pact with the devil? The United states and the fate of modern Haiti." Origins (2014): 1-25.
Corbett, Bob. "Why is haiti is so poor." People To People (1986): 1-14.
Edmund Rice Center. "Haiti – fed on dependency, starved of independence." Just comment (2010): 1-7.
Nicole Rencoret, Abby Stoddard, Katherine Haver, Glyn Taylor and Paul Harvey. "Haiti Earthquake:Context Analysis." ALNAP (2010): 14-42.
Varadarajan, Tunku. Why Haiti's Eartquake is France's Problem. 14 january 2010. 27 june 2014 <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/01/14/Why-Haiti's-Eartquake-is-France's-Problem.html>.