Haiti is raising taxes on a number of imported products as the French-speaking CARICOM country moves to protect local industries from unfair competition.
Secretary of State for Fiscal Reform, Ronald Décembre, said the government has an obligation to protect local producers and industries that are supporting the country's economy and creating sustainable jobs.
"We have incentive tariffs for products we wish people to import and deterrent tariffs for products we believe are harmful to national production," Décembre told the Haitian-based website, HCNN.
He said taxes on imported corn and beans will increase by nearly 400 per cent while the duty on imported rum has been hiked from 15 to 25 per cent. Wheat flour, which previously enjoyed tax-free status, will now attract a 15 per cent tax, while pasta products will move from 10 to 20 per cent.
The tax on imported rice remains unchanged at 3.5 per cent because officials say the country is not yet in a position to produce enough rice to satisfy the local demand.
The new taxes are expected to come into effect in October and must be approved by both houses of Parliament.
Décembre said that the imported goods, often subsidised by producing countries, can be bought on the local market at a cheaper price, and is a main factor in many local businesses closing down.
"We are not taxing just because we want customs to collect more money. It is because the enterprises that are creating jobs here cannot keep up with the prices of subsidised products being dumped from other countries," Décembre said.
But critics fear such measures could affect negatively the cost of living in a country where majority of the population is living on less than two United States dollars a day.
However, the government said the best way to turn the economic situation around is to protect and boost national production, create jobs and opportunities, and generate the means to autonomously fund the projects that matter to the Haitian people.
"We cannot always count on the international community to finance our national budget and our projects. As a people, we have to try our best to take our destiny into our own hands," Décembre said.