Despite being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and being marked by a history of corruption and political unrest, Haiti is a place of rich cultural history and beautiful people.
- Population: just under 10,000,000 (CIA World FactBook)
- Avg Life Expectancy: 62
- Unemployment rate: 41.6%
- Nominal Christians/Catholic/Voodoo: 95% (OperationWorld)
- Evangelical: 16% (Operation World)
- Information on Haitian Voodoo (Wikipedia)
From the CIA World Factbook
Haiti is a free market economy that enjoys the advantages of low labor costs and tariff-free access to the US for many of its exports. Poverty, corruption, vulnerability to natural disasters, and low levels of education for much of the population are among Haiti’s most serious impediments to economic growth. Haiti’s economy suffered a severe setback in January 2010 when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of its capital city, Port-au-Prince, and neighboring areas. Currently the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty, the earthquake further inflicted $7.8 billion in damage and caused the country’s GDP to contract 5.4% in 2010.
In 2011, the Haitian economy had begun recovering slowly from the effects of the earthquake. However, two hurricanes adversely affected agricultural output and the slow public capital spending negatively affected the economic recovery in 2012. GDP growth for 2012 was 2.8%, down from 5.6% in 2011.
Two-fifths of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country’s widespread deforestation. US economic engagement under the Caribbean Basin Trade Preference Agreement (CBTPA) and the 2008 Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE II) Act helped increase apparel exports and investment by providing duty-free access to the US. Congress voted in 2010 to extend the CBTPA and HOPE II until 2020 under the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act; the apparel sector accounts for about 90% of Haitian exports and nearly one-twentieth of GDP.
Remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, equalling 20% of GDP and representing more than five times the earnings from exports in 2012. Haiti suffers from a lack of investment, partly because of weak infrastructure such as access to electricity. In 2005, Haiti paid its arrears to the World Bank, paving the way for re-engagement with the Bank. Haiti received debt forgiveness for over $1 billion through the Highly-Indebted Poor Country initiative in mid-2009. The remainder of its outstanding external debt was cancelled by donor countries following the 2010 earthquake, but has since risen to nearly $1 billion.
The government relies on formal international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability, with over half of its annual budget coming from outside sources. The MARTELLY administration in 2011 launched a campaign aimed at drawing foreign investment into Haiti as a means for sustainable development. To that end, the MARTELLY government in 2012 created a Commission for Commercial Code Reform, effected reforms to the justice sector, and inaugurated the Caracol industrial park in Haiti’s north coast.
Emmaus Biblical Seminary is located in the rural north of Haiti on the Bay of l’Acul just 15 miles from downtown Cap-Haitian (and 15 miles from the Cap-Haitian airport).