Why Haiti creates more poverty than wealth today. The reason: we are myopic.

In my last article, ‘The end of Haiti’s problem is not for tomorrow’, I explained how Haitians are poor today. It was very easy to explain because Haitians gave birth to 152,210 babies in 2018 at the same time the growth of GDP in nominal terms was $126 million. 1.5% GDP growth vs 1.31% the population growth. Doing the math, basically, the average Haitian is netting a deficiency of $3.30 a day, thus causing them to live in poverty by a greater amount than they have to meet their needs. This is where we are as of March 4th, 2019.

But, for cry out loud, how did we get here?

Almost unrreal but Haiti has found ways to squander its best opportunities over time: the ability to learn, apply and grow. Nations of the world have learned and applied what they learned and generate substantial growth resulting in better living conditions for their citizens. Haiti has not. Rather, it has gone down the path of self-destruction as the prioritized method of solving problem with no chance of learning to do things better, a double sadness.

Haiti’s past opportunities

After its independence, which was gained from destroying plantations and killing the colonists, it was expected to completely liberate the slaves and allow for economic reforms prioritizing large property farming in agriculture to sustain the key position in the world’s most lucrative markets at the time in agricultural products such as coffee, cocoa etc. That would have been the right and the best thing to do. We did no such thing; instead we divided the country into smaller plots and allow each and every one to plant tiny farms allowing an agriculture of subsistence to take place and grow overtime. The agricultural sector became weak over time while other nations gained substantial ground.

After the industrial revolution, nations of the world have been taking advantage of machines to allow productivity to take place, building factories, equipment to help building infrastructure like road, bridges
and facilities for health, schools. Overtime, mechanization has removed most workers from agriculture but, instead, put them in factories to allow more jobs to be created while increasing the productivity in both sectors. We did no such thing. We leave most of country men and women working with pick axes and hoes with virtually no trace of substantial manufacturing.

Now, when hundred people are needed to farm here, a few workers, one tractor and some equipment are needed to yield far more results elsewhere leaving an untapped opportunity to create jobs in both agriculture and the manufacturing of that tractor and equipment with advanced knowledge and technology. That is exponential growth for countries that embrace this type of opportunities and they are economically and socially better for it. This is called economic progress, unfortunately only visible in other countries.

Post industrial revolution, production techniques and accumulation of knowledge allow for goods to be created easily with less resources which triggered the needs for marketing, customer services, insurance, banking etc… basically the creation of a whole service sector. The transition and growth from working bare farms to factory integrations have triggered many opportunities for employment and economic growth for the countries that had the vision to upscale in that direction. That would have been the coolest and most productive thing to do. Haiti does no such thing. Instead, did the same old thing. The thing that doesn’t work. The unproductive thing. Haiti has continued the sad path of poverty creation leaving its citizens lingering in abject poverty.

Haiti’s present situation

The basic order at a restaurant today will testify of how far behind we are in the service sector and how customer service is none of our concerns. We act like we don’t care while the rest of the world is moving forward and most of us live in dire poverty but yet, we fail to realize today the poverty is directly related and connected to our inability to adapt and pursue the right opportunities that were presented in the past and present. This is called myopia. Myopia in medical terms is when you don’t see far. In economic development terms, myopia is the inability to foresee future opportunities and remain stuck in the present. That explains why we still prefer leaving
most of our country men and women working the field with bare hands with no sights of manufacturing and almost no integration in the service sectors; all perfect opportunities to create employment and create wealth.

Haiti’s future

I had the opportunity to interview recently a gentleman named Freud Dimitry St Louis, the CEO of Haiti Job Booster. Freud is in his early thirties and believes in Haiti’s future. He thinks Haiti still has a shot at becoming self-sustaining but has to catch up on over two hundred years of capital accumulation by building an economic consensus to integrate what the world needs the most with what we do best. This is what I describe as our angle of opportunity. While Freud gave no further thought to this, it brings me to my own economic framework developed in my first book ‘From Aid to Trade’ of how opportunity can become a trigger for economic growth.

What service jobs has to do with it

The word today needs services, visual content and faster processes. What if Haiti, this time, does not let this opportunity lags behind but instead embraces it and train hundreds of thousands of young men and women in IT, transcript, customer services and allow young Haitians to bypass the mechanization in agriculture, factory but skip directly into serving countries customer services, HR while sitting at home enjoying the warm climate. With a higher income, we would be able to buy more from the local market and that would trigger economic growth from within. That’s what India is doing and many other countries are taking advantage of this opportunity to create massive employment for their youth. We can do this thing. It’s not too late.

My friend, Fednar Duquesne, along with Digicel and many other companies are doing just that today. It just has to be expanded and become a worthwhile industry to be developed with the right tax incentive, capital and government support. Having a dream for Haiti’s development include anticipate on sectors in high demand and propose proactive solution instead of missing or ignoring those opportunities and write about it with regret fifty years from now. We need to do this. We can do this.

Click here to read my book ‘ From Aid to Trade’ for more analysis of how Haiti and other developing countries can get out of poverty.