Haiti and business, looking for interaction                                                                   (by Jean Kensle Figaro)

Have you ever wondered what have become of ideas submitted by young participants in different hackathons or contests on entrepreneurship, whether they are won or not? How many of these winners still stand or how many of those non-winners who have made their dreams come true?

It is no secret that prosperity and the emergence of business require some strict conditions. They need a business environment. However, such environment will not be created quickly. it is made up of a set of interrelated variables, some as important as the others, and they emerge from politics, economics and social conditions.

In the past decade, there has been a lot of talk about investment and entrepreneurship in Haiti. We even had the slogan “Haiti is open for business”, conferences, training sessions, competitions on entrepreneurship were common places. What about the business environment in Haiti, a prerequisite for emancipation and business prosperity? In my opinion, it is important to have an environment that stimulates not only foreign investment but also local initiatives to create wealth and promote economic development. The latter will have to contribute to the improvement of the standard of living of the population and not only to enrich a certain social class.

In 2018, Haiti ranked 182nd out of 190 economies in terms of facilitation for doing business, according to the World Bank’s latest annual ratings. For the period from 2008 to 2018, Haiti is on average 172.91. Which indicates that during this period, we ranked among the 20 countries where it is more difficult to do business. In 2009, we were 159th and we went to 181st in 2017. Nowadays, we are 182nd, which is our worst score ever. In short, the ease of doing business in Haiti is deteriorating over time, and with governments.

Also in 2018, Haiti is one of the countries with the least competitive business environment in the world. We are ranked 138th out of 140 countries in the 2018 edition of the World Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum. The level of competitiveness in Haiti averaged 138.29 between 2012 and 2018. We scored 36.45 points out of 100. The competitiveness index in Haiti averaged 12.49 points from 2012 to 2018, reaching unprecedented high of 36.45 points in 2018 and a record low of 2.90 points in 2013. In contrast to the Dominican Republic which scored 57.38, which is 82nd out of 140 countries. It should be noted that the global competitiveness index is an indicator that assesses the competitiveness of the institutional (property rights), economic (macroeconomic stability, labor market) and social (health and education) sectors.

“A competitive business environment is a key element of economic development. it encourages businesses to operate efficiently, ensures businesses can interact on an equal footing, and promotes entrepreneurial activity. Reforms that open up markets and remove anti-competitive regulations, such as removing restrictions on the number of companies, legal monopolies, price controls and discriminatory treatment of certain companies, lead to significant productivity gains Pop, Georgiana. 2016. “Haiti-Let’s Talk Competition: A Brief Review of Market Conditions.” World Bank, Washington, DC. [1]

Also in the same year, we are among the top 15 most corrupt countries. We are ranked 161 out of 175 among the least corrupt countries, according to Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index. We scored 20 out of 100 points. The corruption index in Haiti averaged 18.35 points between 2002 and 2018, reaching its worst record of 22 points in 2002 and its best record of 14 points in 2008. Corruption represents a major obstacle to economic development and seriously undermines the business climate.

In addition, what business environment can we expect if we do not have the right human capital? In Haiti, the university enrollment rate is around 1 percent, while 84 percent of university graduates have left the country. In 2017 the World Economic Forum ranked Haiti 3rd out of 137 among the countries experiencing the worst electricity supplies. If we take into account the political instability of the country, the ministerial rotation that we face frequently, all this hinders investment and entrepreneurship. What is worse, in initiatives organized to encourage innovation at the national level, our young people’s ideas are copied by private or state institutions. As young people, we have no recourse. We only notice, complain and move on to other things.

In short, it is important to talk about entrepreneurship and investment. However, concrete actions must be taken to improve the business climate in Haiti. We can start by drafting laws for competition that will help put an end to some monopolies and facilitate the emergence of new businesses. Also, find ways to preserve the ideas of our youth who participate in initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship. All in all, the business climate must challenge our different players. The institutions that interact in this area need to strengthen and act accordingly. Otherwise, our greatest entrepreneurs will remain our greatest traders, and that will mean goodbye young entrepreneurs, myself included, who forced ourselves to find our ways.

Jean Kensle Figaro                                                                                                      Career Service Coordinator at HELP (Haitian Education and Leadership Program) He can be reached at jeankenslefigaro@gmail.com

This article was originally published in Le Nouvelliste on March 15th, 2019


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