Haiti’s poverty is clearly indicated by deficits in human and physical capital. These deficits derive from a long history of external and internal oppression, and a system of governance marked by profound deficits in social capital – the networks of norms and trust that facilitate cooperation for mutual benefit. A better understanding of Haiti’s social capital helps clarify the social context of poverty and mechanisms of survival among the poor. It also points to policy issues that must be addressed by any serious effort to alleviate Haiti’s poverty. Clear perception of Haiti’s social capital entails grasping the apparent paradox that it has mixed effects on governance – some positive, some negative, and the fact that it is truncated – rich at the local level and weak at the regional and national-levels. The following discussion reviews these aspects of Haiti’s social capital and the key constraints to the emergence of more representative and effective institutions of governance.
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