Haitian president Martelly’s restriction on border markets
will hurt Haitian women

best cup of coffee“What the Haitian authorities need to do is to put in place strategies to force their citizens that buy products in the Dominican Republic to pay the fees (customs),” advised the Dominican President. 


The Haitian government has been threatening restrictions on the Haiti-DR border markets since 2011, including forbidding trade there altogether. Now, in the wake of a failed ban on the sale of Dominican poultry in Haiti, Martelly is proposing to reduce border market trade from two days to one day a week, according to Dominican Today. The goal: to increase taxes on the Haitian side. The reality: Haiti’s poorest will bear the burden.

President Martelly has repeatedly complained that Haiti isn’t collecting its share of the customs taxes from a lucrative border trade that benefits the DR hugely. The flow of DR goods — everything from avocados to concrete — enters the country through four formal markets on the DR side of the Haiti-DR border, as well as many smaller towns. Intermediaries who buy and pay taxes on the products in the DR may pay less or no taxes on the Haitian side because of spotty regulation. Martelly has repeatedly blamed the border markets for being an avenue for Dominican products to slip into the country free and clear.

“What the Haitian authorities need to do is to put in place strategies to force their citizens that buy products in the Dominican Republic to pay the fees (customs),” advised the Dominican President.

Nothing could be more off base than blaming the border markets for Haiti’s failure to collect “its share” of border trade taxes. And nothing could be more damaging to his own people than restricting the markets instead of fixing the problem where it actually lives — in Haiti’s government.

During almost a month documenting trade at the southernmost border market in Pedernales, Dominican farm products and pepe (used clothes) arrived by truck early in the morning. Most carried produce from central DR farms or pepe from the D.M. Group in Pedernales. Haitian women — from the border town of Ansapit to as far as Jacmel 93 miles away — are the buyers.

The market is operated by the mayor of Pedernales, who collects fees from the Haitian who pay to sell goods there. Pedernales officials have adopted a policy of disallowing Haitian goods in the market. A Dominican army battalion stationed at the border, supplemented by Peruvian UN soldiers stationed on the Ansapit side, enforces the policy.

The women complain they make little or nothing at the Pedernales market. Haiti provides no market of its own here. Ti machann (women merchants) with capital buy larger amounts and travel to markets as far as Port-au-Prince, traveling by foot, donkey, boat and truck or bus. Most of the “contraband” Martelly has continually complained of since 2011 comes across the border at different points outside the markets. Without providing alternatives for his people to make a living, his proposal to restrict the border markets to one day a week will hurt poor Haitian women the most.

“That’s the one thing the Haitian government does efficiently: collect taxes,” says Professor of Anthropology Emeritus Dr. Gerald Murray of University of Florida, a border market expert. “The amount they can collect from these poor women is small. Probably a good percentage of the taxes go to the people who are collecting them. No one has done a study on the actual flow of money, but one thing you can be certain of:  The money does not flow back in the form of services to the Haitian people. The Haitian government extracts and provides mothing in return.”


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