Haiti: Risk Assessment
Country Risk Rating
Business Climate Rating
- Development and reconstruction programs established with international donors
- Membership of regional organisations (Association of Caribbean States, Organization of American States, CARICOM, CARIFORUM)
- Zero-interest loans from the IMF and World Bank totaling roughly USD 132 million to deal with the negative COVID-19 shock
- Highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including hurricanes and earthquakes
- Low level of development and extreme poverty (HDI ranking of 169 out of 189)
- Dependent on expatriate remittances, international donations, and the United States
- Lack of infrastructure, particularly energy infrastructure (70% of population does not have access to electricity)
- Poor governance and low-quality business environment (179th in the 2020 Doing Business ranking); large informal sector
- Political instability and insecurity
- Political instability and insecurity
A lackluster economic recovery amid high uncertainty and weak political environment
The economy is expected to rebound weakly in 2021, following the two-year recession in 2019-2020. Tourism (accounting for roughly 9% of GDP) is not likely to recover strongly, as the social distancing precautionary measures due to the COVID-19 outbreak will not be fully lifted before a vaccine is widely available. In fact, the sector had already been impacted by the difficult political climate and, more specifically, by Haiti’s classification as a dangerous destination by the United States and other countries. Household consumption will be hampered by weak income fundamentals. Furthermore, persistent inflation, induced by the exchange rate depreciation and a chronic shortage of essential items, should continue to erode purchasing power. However, the textile industry (the country´s largest export sector) is likely to rebound partially in 2021, thanks to stronger U.S. demand and preferential access to the U.S. market. Finally, the energy crisis (characterized by fuel shortages and blackouts) has taken a toll on industrial productive capacities, on the daily circulation of people and goods, and on the supply of humanitarian assistance and essential public services for the population. Downside risks are related to COVID-19’s evolution and the prolonged political instability.
Public and external accounts are dependent on foreign aid
The challenges imposed by COVID-19 further aggravated the fiscal situation in 2020, because of higher social and health expenditures amid lower tax revenues. Public spending is estimated to have increased by 4% of GDP in 2020, of which 2.3% of GDP was allocated to healthcare, 0.6% to protect the most vulnerable, and 0.9% in other transfers. To deal with this situation, the country got access to zero-interest loans from the IMF and World Bank, totaling roughly USD 132 million (1.3% of the estimated 2020 GDP). Moreover, while the fiscal and external accounts did benefit from lower international oil prices in 2020, these gains were mitigated by the exchange rate depreciation. In fact, the monetary financing of the deficit has triggered a loop of inflation and exchange rate depreciation of the national currency (gourde), which, in turn, have fuelled further subsidy-related losses. In 2021, the fiscal deficit should only partially ease, in the absence of a bright economic recovery. According to the IMF (April 2020), subsidies alone have raised the public debt by 18% of GDP since 2012. It is also worth noting that the Petrocaribe Initiative, which was an important source of financing in post-earthquake Haiti, has been suspended by Venezuela since 2018, putting further pressure on the fiscal accounts. Regarding the external accounts, the country has to deal with a chronic trade deficit (roughly 34% of GDP in 2019), as under-diversified domestic production induces sizeable imports. In 2021, textile exports are likely to experience a partial rebound, but the decline in exports of traditional goods such as coffee, cocoa, and mangoes is expected to continue because of the weakness of the agricultural sector. Meanwhile, imports should increase slightly due to some recovery in international oil prices (fuels account for 18% of total imports) and relatively higher activity. Moreover, the current account deficit will be reduced by a rebound in migrant remittances (35% of GDP in 2019) and grants (3.8% of GDP).
A persistently bleak political environment
President Jovenel Moïse has been facing corruption allegations since 2019 when an audit publication of the Court of Auditors reported that aid provided under the Venezuelan Petrocaribe program (over USD 3.8 billion between 2008 and 2016) had been misused. This triggered protests in the country, with the opposition and civilians calling for his resignation. Moreover, the political environment further deteriorated after the country failed to hold legislative elections in October 2019. According to officials, parliamentary elections were not held because of the insecurity caused by the anti-corruption protests. In fact, the president has ruled by decree since January 2020, when the terms of two-thirds of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate expired. Furthermore, international financial assistance could be at risk, as lenders and donors are making their support conditional on the resolution of the ongoing political crisis. These protests temporarily lost strength during the partial lockdown induced by the COVID-19 outbreak. Nonetheless, the murder of Monferrier Dorval, president of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association, in August 2020, not far from the residence of President Moïse, caused indignation among the population. As a result, acts of violence increased significantly: armed gangs occupied more territory, civilian populations were attacked and massacres took place. Students and opposition activists are requesting the authorities to stop the wave of violence that is plaguing the country, mainly in Port-au-Prince. Meanwhile, human rights organizations are accusing the government of colluding with criminal organizations.