Haiti: Economic growth stunted by political instability in 2016

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse during an interview with reporters shortly after the results of the election were released, Nov 29. 2016. PHOTO/AFP

Electoral confusion discouraged investment

Haiti’s economy expanded by only 1.4 percent this year, according to official figures released Wednesday, as the country’s electoral confusion has discouraged investment.

The country has been wracked by political instability since results of last year’s first round presidential election were scrapped, which forced former president Michel Martelly to step down in February without a successor in place.

Parliament elected then-Senate president Jocelerme Privert to serve as the country’s provisional president for an initial 3-month term.
But Privert remains in office because the electoral authorities have yet to announce the final results of a new first-round vote in November seemingly won by ruling party candidate Jovenel Moïse.

The 1.4 percent growth figure fell far short of the 3.6 percent growth the government had set as a target at the start of the fiscal year that ended in September. But the fiscal year began before the electoral drama ramped up.

“We have a government that is not constitutional, so local and international private investors are not investing significantly,” said Haitian economist Kesner Pharel, who pointed to growth of 6 percent across the border in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and also held an election this year.

Slowed economic activity

The uncertainty has slowed economic activity, further enlarging the budget deficit. The national currency has lost 25 percent of its value and inflation exceeded 12 percent in 2016.

The figures cover the fiscal year ending in September, meaning they do not include expenses incurred after Hurricane Matthew, which ravaged the country in October, causing damage costing nearly US$2 billion, Pharel said.

“The first forecasts for 2017 are alarming because we are talking about one percent growth,” he added, saying the rate of economic growth does not cover Haiti’s population growth, stable at 1.5 percent.
Even if the election crisis is settled and a new president installed, the prospect of political stability would not be enough to turn the tide, he added.

“We also need a parliament that is much more effective at passing laws,” he added. “However the current (new) legislature has not shown any signs that will be the case.”
In the past year, Haitian lawmakers have refused to vote on amending the budget to allow an adjustment of public expenditure to reflect revenue.

Source: AFP