International Development in Dominican Republic & Haiti — Multiple Perspectives

After twenty years of the United States’ international development efforts in the island of Dominican Republic and Haiti, the issues of low-income with high levels of extreme poverty rates still remain amongst both countries’ populations and is still heavily analyzed and reported on by various international development scholars and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Two important factors to note are both the large amount of economic issues the Dominican Republic and Haiti face year to year as well as the level of disconnect within trade agreements between the United States and these developing countries.

From 1991 when the United States began initial development work up until the early 2000’s, the development progress made in the Dominican Republic was resulting in a notable amount of economic growth and increased average income amongst the Dominican government and its citizens due to the United States’ initial investment. However, the country’s second largest bank, Banco Intercontinental, collapsed due to corruption scandal which led to the domestic banking crisis of 2003. Similar to the United States’ stock market crash, the crisis resulted in decreased hourly wages and some established progress had been halted or even reversed, setting them back years from an economic standpoint. According to the World Bank, an international monetary NGO, in 2010 the poverty level in the Dominican Republic was the same as it was in 1990 before the United States even began funding Dominican Republic’s economic development due to banking crisis and the slow recovery of their economy thereafter. Furthermore, annual economic growth rates were improving at a higher rate in the 1990s at 11.4% compared to the 2000s improvement rate of 6.3%. However, the World Bank suggests the Dominican Republic government’s historical neglect to properly invest in public goods and public services such as health and education, ranking them 24th out of the 33 countries that make up Latin America; needless to say, the Dominican government is also partially blame.

A significant amount of the Haitian government’s obstacles stem from their economic struggle to recover from the earthquake in 2010. That being said, it is also largely due to the level of disconnect between the United States and their private contractors in their trade agreements made with the Haitian government which I believe is underrepresented. The majority of international development establishments operate through a third party such as an NGO or private contractor due to the nature and capacity of the development work that takes place internationally. They are used for what is known as intermediate recipients of funding in order to monitor ongoing developments and make sure money is being spent efficiently. Unfortunately, these third parties do not always have the impoverished country’s best interest at heart. According to the Center for Global Development, in the case of the United States development progress in Haiti only 1% of humanitarian aid and roughly 18% of long term relief aid went to the Haitian government of the $3 billion funded.

That being said, a combination of unpredictable economical and natural disasters coupled with lack of governance over funds causes has caused economic set back within both countries on the island, which makes it hard for substantial, permanent growth to be achieved. Without proper economic support and structural oversight, it makes developments more costly often times due to reinvestment to fix development failures and set backs that could be avoided with a proper governance so that funding for development work is distributed and structured in an efficient way that is beneficial for the United States and island.