Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of US$797 and a Human Development Index ranking of 169 out of 189 countries in 2019. According to the Human Capital Index, a child born today in Haiti will grow up to be only 45% as productive as they could be if he/she had enjoyed full education and health. However, the country has been successful in containing the cholera outbreak, with zero laboratory-confirmed cases since January 2019.
The latest official poverty estimate (2012) suggested that over 6 million Haitians lived below the poverty line of US$2.41 per day, and more than 2.5 million fell below the extreme poverty line of US$1.12 per day. The poverty gap between urban and rural areas has increased.
Recurrent episodes of institutional and political instability have hindered Haiti’s economic and social development. GDP annual growth averaged only 1.3% over the past two decades. GDP is estimated to have contracted by 1.4% in 2019, and the country has experienced rapid currency depreciation (25.5%), and rampant inflation (17.3%) at the end of the fiscal year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already weak economy and political instability in Haiti. While the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Haiti remains relatively low compared to other countries in the region, the number of cases has been rising, and the country is still very vulnerable. COVID-19 is expected to lead to significant economic losses and could set back poverty reduction efforts. The pandemic is expected to disproportionately affect the poor and most vulnerable populations, including women, reinforcing existing social inequalities. Economic growth is expected to decline to GDP by 3.1 % in 2020 as the service sector contracts, supply chains are disrupted, and remittances fall as the global economy heads into recession. The fiscal deficit is expected to widen to over 6% of GDP (from a pre-COVID-19 forecast of 3%) and inflation is expected to reach over 20%. The pace and shape of economic recovery will depend on the progression of the pandemic and its ramifications throughout the global economy, and progress toward resolution of the lingering political crisis.
In addition to the challenges posed by the pandemic, Haiti remains highly vulnerable to natural hazards, mainly hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. More than 96% of the population is exposed to these natural hazards. Hurricane Matthew, which hit the country in 2016, caused losses and damages estimated at 32% of 2015 GDP. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency, intensity, and impacts of extreme weather events in the country.
Last Updated: Oct 20, 2020