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After the demonstrations in Haiti in February, the cost of living has become untenable
The situation in Haiti after the demonstrations in February did not improve much, it could even be said that it got worse. Because of the so-called 'Opération Pays Lock', the citizen mobilizations that blocked the country from February 7 to 18, the inflation rate reached 17% at the end of that same month.
Leer en español: Las manifestaciones en Haití: terribles repercusiones en la economía
However, it was not only the increase in inflation, but also the constant devaluation of the gourde, the Haitian currency, in relation to the US dollar. In January 2018, for example, 1 dollar was bought at 63.20 gourdes, a situation quite different from the current price of 87.08 gourdes per dollar, as Le National recalls. In just one year and a half, the price of the gourde was devalued to the point that it has influenced the prices of basic cleaning and food products. Therefore, the cost of living has increased in a very short time.
The February marches
On February 7, commemorative date of the fall of the Duvaliers, ex-dictators of the country, exploded mass marches that lasted for almost two weeks. The trigger for the common disillusionment with the government was the scandal of Petro Caribe, which consisted, according to the professor and writer Lyonel Trouillot, in an article by Le Point, in which there is no trace of "almost no trace of the funds taken from the sale of Venezuelan oil in 8 years. According to the most conservative figures, approximately 2 billion dollars. "
Likewise, management failures have been proven, thanks to "a report published by the Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Containment (CSCCA), [which] considered numerous irregularities and implicated a company directed by the president before his election" . For this reason, the population asked for the resignation of the current President Jovenel Moïse.
After several deaths and injuries, in addition to the paralysis of the country at work, the marches dissipated on February 18. Faced with the revolts and their requests, Moïse declared at the time that he was not going to leave "the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers" and that, with respect to the transit government that was required of him, "we have already known a series of transitional governments that have left a lot of catastrophes and disasters. "
Thus, neither Moïse resigned, nor was there much improvement in the economic and social situation of the country. What is the current situation?
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A higher cost of living and lack of public policies
As the report "Haïti: quand la vie devient trop chère" by RFI on the state of the country after February, the Haitian economy, as a result of inflation and the devaluation of the gourde, has made life much more expensive.
Jocelyn Casimir, a mother of two and an informal worker who had to ask for a loan to start a business in the street in the absence of job offers, gives an example of how the prices of basic products have increased. Before showing the figures given by her, it is important to mention that, in addition to the gourde, in Haiti the Haitian dollar is managed, a currency that does not officially exist, but that is used by the population to simplify the calculations. Stephanie Schüler, the author of the report, explains that 1 Haitian dollar equals 5 gourdes.
Having that clear, Casimir explains that before the price of a sack of rice was 200 Haitian dollars, while now it is 320 Haitian dollars. There are also products that doubled exactly twice the price as pasta (75 Haitian dollars before, now 150) and soap (10 gourdes before, 20 today).
In a country where 25% of the population lives in extreme poverty and 60% in poverty, these increases worsen living conditions much more and their effects are seen in other sectors such as health and education.
Regarding health, Dr. Jude Rennelick of La Providence public hospital outside Gonaïves affirms that the number of people going to the hospital has decreased, probably as a result of the fear generated by the price of medical prescriptions. According to him, for this reason many people prefer to self-medicate at home. An example of the price change is the value of diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug, which went from being worth 20 gourdes to 35.
The effect on education has also been noted in the number of students attending classes. According to Philogène Messac, director of the Collège Lumière, the list of 600 students that he had before a new year began in September decreased to 460, all that in a year. This happens despite attempts to keep expenses to a minimum. Also, he assures that the fact that several parents live in the field and that the students are motivated more by the money that they can acquire in works does not improve the situation either.
Repercussions in the industry
Finally, even if the government takes into account its budget deficit of 270 million dollars, public policies do not help much to improve the economy of local producers . This is exemplified in the government's latest order to lower customs taxes on imported rice, which has not pleased native farmers.
In Haiti 120 thousand tons of rice are produced and 150 thousand tons are imported, so the external market is much larger. With the reduction of taxes on imported rice, rice produced in Haiti is at a disadvantage compared to market prices. As one of the growers interviewed by RFI says about the government's announcement, "That's not what he should tell us. He had to announce that he was going to clean the irrigation canals, that he was going to put agricultural machines at our disposal to work the fields, that he would provide us with seeds so that we could produce our own rice. And when he lowers the price of imported rice, what will happen to ours? "
This attitude of privileging the domestic product has a tradition in the Haitian governments, as explained by the economics professor Pierre Podevin, of the University of Gonaïves, since there is no national production and there is a great dependence on the exterior. As he says in the face of the economic situation, "there are no public policies that can truly mitigate the serious social problems we have in the country (...) a country is a subject with a plan, there must be a plan installed, there are plans that are written in some drawer of the ministry. " However, these have not been used because of the lack of continuity of each government with the previous one.
LatinAmerican Post | Juan Gabriel Bocanegra
Translated from "Manifestaciones en Haití: terribles repercusiones en la economía"