The Republic of Haiti is a country on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles of the Caribbean Sea. It is the most densely populated Caribbean nation with a population of about 11.4 million. It is the third-largest country in the Caribbean with a land area of 27,750 square kilometers.
The country is a free market economy, benefiting from low labor costs as well as tariff-free trading to the United States for many of its exports. Tourism fuels the country’s economy. However, its poor infrastructure, political instability, corruption, and poor access to education, and poverty have slowed down Haiti’s growth, making it among the poorest countries in the Americas. In addition, the country was severely impacted by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that damaged much of Port-au-Prince in January 2010. Two-thirds of Haitians rely on agriculture, primarily on small-scale subsistence farming. With its rampant deforestation, the country is vulnerable to frequent natural disasters.
An economic agreement passed through the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE) in December 2006 has augmented exports and investments of garments by providing duty-free access to the US. The garments industry contributes three-quarters to the country’s foreign trading and about one-tenth of its GDP. Remittances that are the major source of foreign exchange revenue contribute nearly 20% to the country’s GDP.
In 2005, the country settled its debts to the World Bank. In 2009, Haiti’s loan of over $1 billion was offset through the Highly-Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) program while the remaining balance was canceled by donor countries in 2010.
Haiti’s official currency is the Haitian gourde which was established in 1813. Along with its centime sub-unit, the gourde replaced the livre. After the Banque de la Republic d’Haiti was founded in 1979, banknotes were released bearing the portrait of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier who later on became the president and was named “President for Life”. After his death, Papa Doc’s portrait was replaced with a picture of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier who assumed the presidency on April 22, 1971. Since the exile of Baby Doc on February 7, 1986, portraits of the Duvaliers were no longer shown on Haitian banknotes.
In 2004, the central bank released a set of paper bills to commemorate the bicentenary of its freedom from France. This family of notes was the first to have a combination of French and Haitian Creole texts.