Haiti has a large and talented diaspora living in North America, Europe, and beyond. Estimates are that at least one in every six Haitians live abroad. They represent a wide spectrum of talent, from hard-working laborers to skilled professionals. At the same time, Haiti has a desperate need for intellectual capital. Only 15 percent of Haitians in Haiti have a high school education, and less than 1 percent is college-educated. A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that 80 percent of Haiti’s college-educated citizens live outside of Haiti.
There are any number of obstacles that inhibit Haitians abroad from returning. Some remained concerned about the security situation and political stability in the country. Others are concerned that they cannot make enough money in Haiti to support themselves and their families. Still others are comfortable with their lives abroad and are unwilling to make a permanent move elsewhere.
The one factor that is firmly in the Haitian government’s control is the existence of laws that place Haitians in the diaspora at a distinct disadvantage to those still living in the country. In particular, laws requiring that all business have a majority stake held by Haitian citizens and that prevent those with dual nationality from serving in the government are counterproductive. It is precisely in the areas of commerce and governance that Haiti needs the most capable people. Haitian laws should entice—rather than inhibit—those with critical skills to return to the country.
It is unclear just how many Haitians would return if the Parliament decided to make these changes. But it is equally clear that the country does not benefit from these discouraging laws. The United States and the international community should encourage the Haitian Parliament to repeal laws necessary to foster the return of Haitians living abroad.
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