An economic chasm separates the two countries sharing the island of Hispaniola. Until the mid-twentieth century, both had roughly the same GDP, but while the Dominican Republic (DR) has enjoyed decades of economic growth, Haiti’s economy has languished, crippled by political turmoil and natural disasters. Although both countries have roughly the same population—nearly 11 million—the DR’s economy is ten times bigger.
Largely uncontrolled cross-border trade highlights these differences, straining bilateral relations. Exports from the Dominican Republic worth hundreds of millions of dollars enter Haiti illegally each year, depriving the government of revenues needed to create jobs and provide basic services and stifling the growth of Haiti’s own agricultural and industrial sectors. Meanwhile, Haitians—unable to find employment, education, or health care at home—cross into the DR, swelling the country’s undocumented population.
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