Estudos Económicos
Haiti

Haiti

Population 11.1 million
GDP 869 US$
D
Country risk assessment
E
Business Climate
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators 

  2017 2018 2019 (e) 2020 (f)
GDP growth (%) 1.2 1.5 -0.1 -4.0
Inflation (yearly average, %) 14.7 13.7 17.6 17.1
Budget balance * (% GDP) -1.9 -3.5 -4.6 -5.1
Current account balance (% GDP) -3.7 -4.1 -2.9 -3.5
Public debt (% GDP) 31.0 33.3 36.5 36.5

(e): Estimate. (f): Forecast. *2020 year runs from the 1st October 2019 to the 30th September 2020.

STRENGTHS

  • Development and reconstruction programs established with international donors
  • Membership of regional organisations (Association of Caribbean States, Organization of American States, CARICOM, CARIFORUM)
  • IMF concessional interest-free loan granted in 2019 for USD 229 million over three years

WEAKNESSES

  • Highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including hurricanes and earthquakes
  • Low level of development and extreme poverty (HDI ranking of 168 out of 189)
  • High unemployment rate (over 35%)
  • Dependent on expatriate remittances, international donations and the United States
  • Import dependency
  • Lack of infrastructure, particularly energy infrastructure (70% of population does not have access to electricity)
  • Poor governance and low-quality business environment (179th in the 2020 Doing Business ranking); large informal sector
  • Political instability and insecurity

Risk assessment

Growth hampered by political instability

Growth will be weak in 2020, still affected by political and economic instability, as well as inflation, which is putting a dampener on household consumption. Household purchasing power is hurt by high inequality and extreme poverty, which, combined with high inflation, are reducing consumption. Conversely, consumption is supported by expatriate remittances (32% of GDP in 2018), mainly from the United States. Demonstrations led to the country’s near-total shutdown for several months, paralyzing shopping malls on a regular basis and scaring off foreign investors. This situation is causing private investment to slacken. Capital outflows are supporting currency depreciation, further fuelling inflation, which is already being exacerbated by monetization of the public deficit. The textile sector, the only one that saw growth in 2019, is expected to drive the growth of the formal sector through its exports (90% of exports and 10% of national GDP). It enjoys preferential access to the US market, notably through the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE II) initiative. Tourism is being adversely affected by the political climate, and particularly by Haiti’s classification as a dangerous destination by the United States and other countries. The agricultural sector (40% of employment and 20% of GDP), which is mainly informal and characterised by small, unproductive farms, is highly exposed to frequent natural disasters.

 

Public and external accounts dependent on foreign aid

Public accounts, which were battered by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, will remain in deficit. In March 2019, the country signed a three-year Extended Credit Facility with the IMF for USD 229 million (2.6% of the 2019 GDP). However, release of the funds is conditional upon approval of a budget, a process that is rendered impossible by government instability. The country is therefore currently operating under the 2017-2018 amending budget. Energy subsidies are a significant tax burden (traditionally about 3.5% of GDP). The occurrence of climatic hazards could force the government to incur additional expenses. The public deficit is mainly financed by the central bank, but also by international aid and direct budget transfers, notably from the EU and the World Bank. Public debt is largely external and denominated in dollars, due to concessional loans contracted from Venezuela through the Petrocaribe Program, although the resources provided have dropped sharply since 2016.

The current account deficit is mainly due to a chronic trade deficit (more than 35% of GDP in 2018), as underdiversified domestic production necessitates sizeable imports. Textile exports could suffer from slower demand globally, but especially in the United States, which is Haiti’s number-one export market. The decline in exports of traditional goods such as coffee, cocoa and mangoes is expected to continue in line with the weak state of the agricultural sector. Ongoing devaluation of the gourde will drive imports up, although lower oil prices should mitigate this effect (oil imports account for more than 10% of the total). The current account deficit is reduced by migrant remittances (32% of GDP) and grants (5% of GDP). Foreign exchange reserves cover about five months of imports.

 

Unprecedented political, economic and social crisis

Since September 2019, the country has been at a standstill, with fuel shortages and inflation forcing Haitians to take to the streets. The popular protest movement launched in July 2018 is a response to the high cost of living and widespread corruption, with Haiti ranked 161st out of 180 in Transparency International’s corruption index. Anger was heightened by the publication in February 2019 of an audit by the court of auditors finding that aid provided under the Venezuelan Petrocaribe programme (over USD 3.8 billion between 2008 and 2016) had been misused. Specifically, the report highlighted the personal role played by President Jovenel Moïse in these activities. Haitians and most political parties are calling for his resignation, but he refuses to step down. A wave of often violent demonstrations that began in mid-September resulted in at least 42 deaths over two months, including 19 people who were killed by the police. Violence and insecurity are spreading and worsening. Against this backdrop, the legislative election scheduled to take place in October 2019 has been postponed indefinitely. Additionally, the humanitarian situation is growing increasingly alarming, while imports of food, medicines and international aid are hampered by instability. In the words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: “the protracted multidimensional crisis with which it [Haiti] has been contending since July 2018 shows little sign of abatement or resolution”.

Cross-border relations with the Dominican Republic will remain tense, due to conflicts over Haitian immigration and border control, which the neighbouring country has stepped up following the deterioration in the political situation in Haiti. Massive deportations of Haitians are expected to continue, impacting trade between the two nations, keeping in mind that the Dominican Republic is one of Haiti’s most important trading partners.

 

Last update: February 2020

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