Recent Events in Haiti
People took to the streets protesting the spike in gas prices, the prime minister and members of his cabinet stepped down. Haiti is choked by another crisis. But it would be too simple to say that the rage manifested in the protests were only about the 40 to 50% increase in gas prices. No, it was more than that.
Prices for local and foreign goods have risen by an average of almost 13% per year according to the Haitian Institute of Statistics. The local currency has lost almost 50% of its value against the Dollar since 2010. All goods are more expensive since over half of Haitian food is imported. This means that staples like rice, beans, corn, chicken, and vegetable oil have doubled in price since 2010. A 2018 study from USAID noted that “Haitians experience food prices that are approximately 30-77% higher than in other countries in the Latin American/Caribbean region”. In addition, Haiti has the lowest tariffs in the Caribbean resulting in cheaper US and Dominican imports undercutting local production.
Since the 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s government has kept gas prices artificially low. But instead making the increase gradual, it was imposed in its totally. The government had entered in an agreement with the IMF as part of a reform package that the IMF had requested in order to allow Haiti to access funds from international donors.
Instead of focusing on the looting and destruction, would it not be better to focus on implementing policies that do not take out economic reforms on the backs of poor people, but rather benefit them and enable them to live a more dignified life. Raising the minimum wage would be one of those policies.