Population: 8,924,553 (July 2008 est.)
Surface area: 27,750 sq km
Currency: gourde (HTG)
GDP per capita: Purchasing power parity US $1,300 (2007 est.)
The native Taino Amerindians - who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by Columbus in 1492 - were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola, and in 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean, but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti's nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L'Ouverture. After a prolonged struggle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare its independence in 1804. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. After an armed rebellion led to the forced resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, an interim government took office to organize new elections under the auspices of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Continued violence and technical delays prompted repeated postponements, but Haiti finally did inaugurate a democratically elected president and parliament in May of 2006.
Economy – Overview
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty. Two-thirds 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. A macroeconomic program developed in 2005 with the help of the International Monetary Fund helped the economy grow 3.5% in 2007, the highest growth rate since 1999. US economic engagement under the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act, passed in December 2006, has boosted the garment and automotive parts exports and investment by providing tariff-free access to the US. Haiti suffers from high inflation, a lack of investment because of insecurity and limited infrastructure, and a severe trade deficit. In 2005, Haiti paid its arrears to the World Bank, paving the way for reengagement with the Bank. The government relies on formal international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability. Remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, equaling nearly a quarter of GDP and more than twice the earnings from exports.
Major Export Commodities: apparel, manufactures, oils, cocoa, mangoes, coffee
Remittances: US $1,002 million (2006)
Human Development Index 2007/2008 ranking: 146 out of 177
Official Development Assistance and Major Development Partners: Net ODA in 2006 was US $ 363.31 million. Major development partners include the United States, Canada, and the IDB Special Operational Fund.
Total External Debt: US $1.463 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
United Nations membership date: 24 October 1945
New York Mission:
Permanent Mission of Haiti to the United Nations
801 Second Avenue, Room 600
New York, N.Y. 10017 USA
CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. www.cia.gov
World Development Indicators. World Bank www.worldbank.org
Development, Recipient Aid Charts. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. www.oecd.org
Human Development Report 2007/2008.United Nations Development Programme. www.undp.org
Updated June 2008