Haitian Elections: Optimism in the Horizon

Beach in Haiti. Photo by Michelle Walz
Beach in Haiti. Photo by Michelle Walz.

The Caribbean country is back in the news. After a three-year delay of legislative and municipal elections, Haitians are finally preparing to vote—on August 9th for two thirds of the Senate and October 25th for the presidency, as well local and municipal elections. Candidates from 125 political parties have already registered.

The incumbent president, Michel Martelly, has been ruling by decree since the parliament was dissolved last January when the terms of every member of the Chamber of Deputies and a third of the Senate expired. His final presidential year is starting this month. 

Could elections turn out well for Haitians?

Alejandro Pacheco, Strategic Advisor for the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean for UNDP, was responsible for UN intervention in Haiti as the country transitioned from the emergency stage to long-term development.

He points out that after several dictatorships and years of economic recession, the first signs of recovery started in 2006 for Haiti. The destructive 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 2010 that killed over 200,000 people, displaced 1.5 million and destroyed over 300,000 buildings was a serious tragedy, although it prompted the first peaceful power handover.

Pacheco told OnFrontiers that he is optimistic about the current situation, indicating that if a second peaceful handover is achieved, the country has enormous potential for stability and therefore more growth.

Great possibilities in agriculture 

Haiti’s GDP has been growing since 2003, with a 3.8% increase in 2014. Higher than the world average, the growth rate is forecasted to keep increasing. The country, nonetheless, is still the poorest in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the developing world.

One of the most promising drivers of economic development in the country is agriculture, which gives work to two thirds of all Haitians and accounts for a quarter of the GDP.

The agribusiness sector, in particular, is attracting investment from foreign organizations and there is demand from the US and the Caribbean for the country’s agricultural products. In an article on the Financial Times, the general director of Haiti’s Center for Investment Facilitation (CFI), Norma Powell, highlighted the investments of $300m in total in banana, pail oil, coffee and vegetables this year. She expects 27,000 jobs to come from this injection of funds.

This fiscal year, the government of Haiti estimates that the agriculture sector will receive 73% of the investments in the country and will create 74% of all new jobs.

A prosperous tourism sector

Haiti’s burgeoning tourism sector is getting attention as well. The Ministry of Tourism recently partnered with CheapCaribbean.com, a low cost travel company, to expand the sector. The minister Stéphanie Villedrouin told the Financial Times that the development of the industry, including infrastructure such as airports, bridges and utilities, would require an estimated $350m in private-public partnerships.

The outcome of this year’s elections will have a significant impact on Haiti’s economic and social development in the coming years. However, good things are already happening and we should be keeping an eye on the island.

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