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Why is Haiti poor?

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William Crawley | 11:29 UK time, Saturday, 23 January 2010

HaitiReliefMap.gifWe've heard some controversial theological answers to this question, but there are other answers that may seem more persuasive. In this radio interview, Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs & Steel (and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed), tries to explain "why Haiti, once a fairly prosperous country, has sunk into enduring poverty -- a condition not comparatively shared by its neighbor on the same island, the Dominican Republic. According to Diamond, Haiti's environmental conditions offer a partial explanation. But you will also find clues in the country's language, and in the legacy of slavery that has shaped Haiti's economic relationship with Europe and the US."

Listen here.


  • Comment number 1.

    Yes, Mr. Crawley...Haiti is poor because of the precursors that were listed above and, also, poor governmental infrasture....

    Plus, they have had many dictatorships over the years in Haiti.

    -Dennis Junior

  • Comment number 2.

    Ulster singer Brian Houston says the biggest factor he could see was that there was no concept of servant leadership in the country and that the african tribal mentality meant that every leader who gets in acts like they have won the lottery instead of serving their nation.


  • Comment number 3.

    There is also the view that voodo makes people too passive and fatalistic to improve their nation and character;-


    In voodo the almighty God is completly detached from the world, has no interest in it and cannot be contacted.

    Can our impression of God shape our character and the character of a nation?

    I believe it can.

    Also, slavery has been a terrible legacy on Haiti but at some point either at a national or personal level we have to make a choice to take responsibility.

    That is not to mitigate in any way against the support we need to give haiti at present.

  • Comment number 4.

    Why is Haiti poor?,

    Was listening to either 5 Live or the World Service and the blame was laid directly at the feet of the French Colonialists.

  • Comment number 5.

    Some of you should stick to religion for peddling nonsense. The voodoo thing as a serious factor is a myth. There is a mention of the French responsibility but none of US plunder, occupation and domination. Yes, her own rulers have played a big part too, and Diamond is correct in alluding to environmental considerations. In other words, Haiti's poverty has many causes, not all of them internal.

    America has contributed greatly to Haiti's misery both politically and economically. It first exploited the country through occupation, and then gave dictatorial governments aid packages which kept them in power. Aristide's government, elected by 75% of the people, was overthrown by a US-backed coup in 2004.

    Economically, neo-liberal policies which have wrecked western economies have been imposed more ruthlessly on Haiti, with disastrous consequences for its own economy. Take rice production. Haiti used to be self-sufficient in rice. The US put pressure on Haiti's governments to remove tariffs on imports of foreign rice in line with 'free market policies' (while it continued protecting its own rice, thus making it cheaper). US rice flooded into Haiti. By the early 1990s Haiti produced barely two thirds of its own rice.

    In other words, it's the usual story: if you have the power you make the rules, break them with impunity and moralise to others: do as I say, not as I do. No wonder, individual Americans have pangs of conscience. They know deep down that their economic and political policies have helped to cause the catastrophe.


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