Date: January 12th, 2018 8:54 AM
According to the International Monetary Fund, Haiti has a per capita GDP of 761. That is actually not the worst in the world. It ranks 167th out of 187 nations. I was surprised that it ranks this high. Some of the nations behind it on the list are places racked by civil war and instability (Afghanistan, Liberia, Sierra Leone) , but some of them are places that seem much more stable and developed than Haiti (Madagascar).
But if you compare Haiti to other nations in its hemisphere, things get kooky.
Haiti is dead last in the Americas in GDP. Then next lowest country is Nicaragua with a per capita GDP of 2,120, or roughly three times Haiti's. El Salvador, hardly an economic powerhouse, has a per capita GDP of 4,343, or nearly six times Haiti's.
But that's comparing Haiti to war-torn Central America. Where Haiti really gets blown out is comparisons to other Caribbean countries.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: 7,038
Dominican Republic: 7,159
Saint Lucia: 7,940
Trinidad and Tobago: 15,342
Saint Kitts and Nevis: 16,058
The Bahamas: 24,272
Puerto Rico: 29,697 (pre-hurricane)
Your typical Caribbean islander, in other words, is doing about 10 times as well as your typical Haitian. At the high end, somebody on Barbados or in the Bahamas is doing 30x as well as a Haitian. These countries, few of which are as resource-rich as Haiti, have made themselves desirable places to visit or do business.
All of these countries are mostly inhabited by the descendants of African slaves. All of them have histories of colonialism and exploitation by European powers and/or the United States. I don't think you can explain Haiti away with demographics or colonialism: I think Haiti is simply the product of bad institutions and bad leaders who have made centuries of bad decisions.