Nation at a Glance - Haiti

History

The native Taino - who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1492 - were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola. 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 post-colonial black-led nation in the world, declaring its independence in 1804. Currently the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has experienced political instability for most of its history. A massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010 with an epicenter about 25 km (15 mi) west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Estimates are that over 300,000 people were killed and some 1.5 million left homeless. The earthquake was assessed as the worst in this region over the last 200 years. In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck southwestern Haiti causing widespread and devastating destruction, with an estimated 2.1 million people affected. President Michel MARTELLY completed his term in February 2016 with no successor in place. The National Assembly elected Interim President Jocelerme PRIVERT to lead until new elections take place in 2017.

Location: Caribbean, western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic

Border Countries: Dominican Republic 376 km

Total Area: 27,750 sq km Land: 27,560 sq km Water: 190 sq km

Climate: Tropical; semiarid where mountains in east cut off trade winds

Terrain: Mostly rough and mountainous

Natural resources: Bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble, hydropower, arable land

Land use: Agricultural land: 66.4%arable land 38.5%; permanent crops 10.2%; permanent pasture 17.7% Forest: 3.6% Other: 30% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: Black 95%, Mulatto and White 5%

Languages: French (official), Creole (official)

Religions: Roman Catholic (official) 54.7%, Protestant 28.5% (Baptist 15.4%, Pentecostal 7.9%, Adventist 3%, Methodist 1.5%, Other 0.7%), Voodoo (official) 2.1%, Other 4.6%, None 10.2%

Population: 10,485,800

Literacy: 60.7%; Male: 64.3%; Female: 57.3% (2015 est.)

Administrative divisions: 10 departments (departements, singular - departement); Artibonite, Centre, Grand'Anse, Nippes, Nord, Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, Ouest, Sud, Sud-Est

Economy: Haiti's economy suffered a severe setback in January 2010 when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of its capital city, Port-au-Prince, and neighboring areas. Currently the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty, the earthquake further inflicted $7.8 billion in damage and caused the country's GDP to contract. In 2011, GDP growth rose to 5.5% as the Haitian economy began recovering from the earthquake. However, growth slowed in 2015 to 2% as political uncertainty, drought conditions, and the depreciation of the national currency took a toll on investment and economic growth.Haiti is a free market economy with low labor costs and tariff-free access to the US for many of its exports. Two-fifths of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, which remains vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country's widespread deforestation. Poverty, corruption, vulnerability to natural disasters, and low levels of education for much of the population are among Haiti's most serious impediments to economic growth. Remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, in 2015 equaling over one-fifth of GDP, and nearly double the combined value of Haitian exports and foreign direct investment.US economic engagement under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) and the 2008 Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE II) helped increase apparel exports and investment by providing duty-free access to the US. The Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act of 2010 extended the CBTPA and HOPE II until 2020, while the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 extended trade benefits provided to Haiti in the HOPE and HELP Acts through September 2025. Apparel sector exports in 2015 reached $904 million and account for about 90% of Haitian exports and more than 10% of the GDP.Investment in Haiti is hampered by the difficulty of doing business and weak infrastructure, including access to electricity. Haiti's outstanding external debt was cancelled by donor countries following the 2010 earthquake, but has since risen to nearly $2 billion as of December 2015, the majority of which is owed to Venezuela under the PetroCaribe program. Although the government has increased its revenue collection, it continues to rely on formal international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability, with over 20% of its annual budget coming from foreign aid or direct budget support.

Agriculture - products: Coffee, mangoes, cocoa, sugarcane, rice, corn, sorghum; wood, vetiver

Industries: Textiles, sugar refining, flour milling, cement, light assembly using imported parts

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