The Upper and the Middle Classes

Haiti Table of Contents

The system of public and private monopolies, including parastatals and import-substitution industries, developed under the Duvaliers. These industries generated great wealth for a handful of powerful families in Port-au-Prince, which resulted in politicized economic decision making. This elite sector saw itself threatened by the fall of the Duvalier regime. Under interim rule, volatile competition arose among certain business interests and military factions. Key members of the business community backed Duvalierist presidential candidates who were likely to protect the lucrative business privileges established under the old regime.

Intermediary classes (those between the wealthy elite and the impoverished masses) grew significantly during the Duvalier era. François Duvalier's political strategy of appealing to the black middle class created a new constituency for political patronage, government employment, and the rapid accumulation of wealth through the political system. The growth of the black middle class was closely linked to the Duvalier era, and it contributed to the tremendous growth of Port-au-Prince after the 1950s.

The long-standing tendencies toward the centralization of wealth and of power in Port-au-Prince greatly increased during the Duvalier era. The income gap between upper and lower income groups widened, and rural areas suffered accordingly. Growing rural-to-urban migration, primarily to Port-au-Prince, and emigration, especially to the United States, also had an impact on the political environment and on aspirations for change. The Duvalier era saw an unprecedented level of emigration to North America along with smaller waves of emigration to other Caribbean countries, Latin America, Europe, and Africa. Emigration had an important impact on Haitian politics. Emigrés maintained numerous fragmented political parties in exile. Emigration also caused huge sums of foreign currency to enter into the economy through remittances. It raised Haitians' consciousness of the outside world, and it led to easier upward social mobility for members of the new intermediary classes by alleviating competition for scarce jobs.

More about the Government and Politics of Haiti.

Custom Search

Source: U.S. Library of Congress