Developing Economies

Haiti: Too Many People, Not Enough Land?

A farmer in Haiti

A farmer works in a cornfield in Vaudreuil, Haiti, in June 2009. Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images

Adam and I just interviewed Mats Lundahl. He's an Swedish economist who has published more than 80 papers about what should be done to pull Haiti out of poverty. He obviously has many ideas and we talked through several but in the end of our conversation he simply said this: "Haiti can't support 9.7 million people. You have to get people off the island."

It sounds kind of crazy to say that the best chance a country has for economic development is for its people to go elsewhere. But this is not the first time we're hearing this.

The basic argument goes something like this: Haiti has cleared most of its trees. The soil is bad, population too big, the land simply cannot support its people.

So what do you do? Some people are arguing for moving large numbers of Haitians somewhere else like Senegal or New Orleans or a charter city (although Paul Romer argues against this idea for Haiti). Others simply want to see the international community increase immigration quotas. How's this sound to you guys?

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