Barriers to Business in Haiti

In a study completed by the World Bank in June 2015, Haiti has a new business density of 0.06. This translates to 383 new businesses created over the course of the year. Out of context, these figures mean very little. However, if we look to Haiti’s nearest neighbor, the Dominican Republic, we see that the Dominican Republic enjoys a new business density of 1.2 and 8,061 new businesses created. Why is this important? We know that entrepreneurship is one of the single biggest indicators of economic growth and power. And the intersection of new firm registration, the regulatory environment, and economic growth may lend credence to the voices that suggest there needs to be a focus not only on physical infrastructure, but also on legal, regulatory, and administrative infrastructures.

What stands in the way of new businesses that can create new jobs and spur the construction of physical infrastructure? Perhaps, one of the greatest and simplest areas of concern is the length of time to become formally incorporated. It takes an average of 97 days to register a new business in Haiti; seventy-eight of those days are simply to register the business with the Department of Commerce and receive an authorization of operations. The average time for new businesses to be operational in Latin America and the Caribbean is 29.4 days. In the Dominican Republic, the average time is 14.5 days. These comparisons are not an attempt to join the seemingly prevailing voices stating that Haiti cannot compete in or contribute to the world economy. These comparisons are made to bring attention to the areas (legal, regulatory, and administrative infrastructures), where innovation is needed to break the cycle of poverty in Haiti.

* This article was created using information from the wonderful World Bank Doing Business database. Any errors are my own.



Lovely Bonhomme Headshot-LG


Lovely  is a first-year student at CUNY School of Law, which graduates public interest attorneys with the motto of practicing “law in the service of human needs”. She is a first generation American of Haitian descent. She has a particular interest in corporate law with a focus on infrastructure and energy projects in emerging markets and developing countries. More broadly, she hopes to contribute to the areas of international rule of law and human rights. 

Voudou and the Law


This book is about the intersection of Vodou and the law in Haiti.

“Vodou has often served as a scapegoat for Haiti’s problems, from political upheavals to natural disasters. This tradition of scapegoating stretches back to the nation’s founding and forms part of a contest over the legitimacy of the religion, both beyond and within Haiti’s borders. The Spirits and the Law examines that vexed history, asking why, from 1835 to 1987, Haiti banned many popular ritual practices.

To find out, Kate Ramsey begins with the Haitian Revolution and its aftermath. Fearful of an independent black nation inspiring similar revolts, the United States, France, and the rest of Europe ostracized Haiti. Successive Haitian governments, seeking to counter the image of Haiti as primitive as well as contain popular organization and leadership, outlawed “spells” and, later, “superstitious practices.” While not often strictly enforced, these laws were at times the basis for attacks on Vodou by the Haitian state, the Catholic Church, and occupying U.S. forces. Beyond such offensives, Ramsey argues that in prohibiting practices considered essential for maintaining relations with the spirits, anti-Vodou laws reinforced the political marginalization, social stigmatization, and economic exploitation of the Haitian majority. At the same time, she examines the ways communities across Haiti evaded, subverted, redirected, and shaped enforcement of the laws. Analyzing the long genealogy of anti-Vodou rhetoric, Ramsey thoroughly dissects claims that the religion has impeded Haiti’s development.”

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A review of the book is available here:

“The Spirits and The Law is by far the most comprehensive historical study on the subject of Vodou to date. Future scholarship on the topic simply cannot ignore this esteemed volume, which received The Berkshire Conference Book Prize for the best first book published in any field of history in 2011.”

A follow-up with Ms. Christelle Vaval

Curious about the average day in the life of an attorney in Haiti? Read below:


Ms. Vaval is an attorney with Le Cabinet Salès in Pétion-Ville. Her areas of expertise are Civil law, Contracts, International law, Business Law, Labor Law, and Intellectual Property.



I can say the average day on the job is from 9-5. Some people tend to stay longer, but it is really a question of organization and maximization of the work load. 

The latest that I have stayed is 8 PM. Or, because of the insecurity I work from home, particularly when I have to draft due diligence reports.

What is the market for Attorney’s in Haiti? 

There are a lot of lawyers in Haiti. However, considering that Haiti is a small community, people tend to deal with lawyers who are known or recommended. Considering that I didn’t have the chance to have a parent as a lawyer, I have to meet people in order to build my reputation. That’s one of the reasons why I am actively involved in chambers of commerce such as AMCHAM HAITI, Canadian-Haitian Chamber of Commerce, and at the international level in ICANN, IABA, etc.

I also pay attention to the quality of the service rendered so people can come back or refer me to others. For me customer service is as important in the legal field, as it is in retail stores or restaurants and I have realized that sometimes, Haitian lawyers don’t know that.

So the market is there, it is really a matter of standing out from the others.

It is also important to note that the legal profession is still a “machist” country where it is more difficult for a woman.

How often are you in court, if at all?

I have decided to focus my career on corporate law. I usually go to court for administrative purposes. For now, I am not interested in litigation.

Where is the best place to find information about what is happening in the legal community, such as a website? 

If there is a place. I can’t tell. I do not know of any website that provides information on the legal community. I know that the Bar of Port-au-Prince is working on its website but it is not finished yet.