The Haitian Prediciment

Societal Impact on Haitian Poverty: Colonial to Namphy

William King
Mrs. Weil Smith
Senior Analytical Writing
April 4, 2010
When thinking of devastating poverty on a global scale, the first place in any person’s mind is the small country occupying the western half of the island of Hispaniola. Haiti is the poster child for global poverty. It has consistently remained impoverished for the entire scope of its existence as an independent nation. In recent years, Haiti received more than 2.42 billion US dollars in aid worldwide (“Haiti Aid”), yet somehow it still remains the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. The fundamental reasons behind Haiti’s continual poverty lie with the domination of a restrictive elite class and the harsh divisions between them and the poor populace.
      On Tuesday January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. It measured a 7.0 on the Richter scale. The subsequent destruction and anarchy brought the horrifying condition of the country into the world eye once again. Shoddy architecture crumbled during the massive quake, not entirely surprising considering plastic jugs are highly valued as building materials (King). The deputy mayor of Léogâne, which was at the epicenter of the earthquake, reported that 90% percent of the buildings in that city had been destroyed and Léogâne had "to be totally rebuilt." (Allen) There is no question among the international community as to the serious levels of degradation within Haiti. Haiti’s poverty stems in large part from its past as France’s prize New World colony.
      Once called “The Jewel of the Antilles,” economists estimate that in the 1750s Haiti provided as much as 50% of the GNP of France. France imported sugarcane, coffee, tobacco, cotton, indigo and other exotics. Back in France they were refined, packaged and sold. By the 1780s nearly two-thirds of France’s foreign investments were based on Saint-Domingue (Colonial Haiti), and the number of stopovers by oceangoing...