Puerto Ricans

 (Carlos Rivera Giusti)

The rain has ceased. The winds of indignation have lowered their intensity and there is a vigilant expectation combined with relief, and a great deal of hope. The air feels as it did after the devastation left by hurricane Maria, because the Island has just survived a historical and tempestuous political cyclone.

Nonetheless, with all lessons learned and after implementing damage control to repair the local and international image, and while the pertinent agencies take care of the possible felonies, the private sector remains focused and strong.

We are standing at the calm after the storm and we are open for business, committed and ready to regain trust in the island and out of the island’s geographical boundaries.

We must work harder to grow from within. It is time to choose leaders with proven track records, regardless of their political affiliations or preferences, these eighteen months are crucial.

It is the moment to demand and prioritize to put Puerto Rico above everything, for the greater good and for a brighter future. Let us set aside political issues, beliefs and candidacies and use our vote to put in power those that will step up to these demands.

If we really want a change of perspective of the Island and we are committed to creating stability, we must start from within, changing paradigms and working towards one common goal; economic and social development. In that direction, we must acknowledge the undeniable force of the private sector.

According to Department of Labor Survey, in February 2019, at least 672,000 people worked for the private sector, which represents 4.5% more than the same month in 2018. This is the highest number of workers since 2015. This growth in the private sector not only is showing a steady recovery after the effects of the months following hurricane María, but also is over the levels reached in the previous three years. Employment increased in all sectors except the government as it should be and this rise has remained steady for over seven months, according to the Department of Labor. We are on track but we need more.

Taking into consideration economic data we must establish as a priority to create a growth strategy or tool in the federal and local government. This will allow us to increase and retain the manufacturing sector that represents 95% of our exports, covers 35% of the government’s budget, 45% of PR GNP (more than 55% if we consider the indirect and induced related business). We also must solve once and for all with a logical proposal, energy, tax and labor reforms which are based on global practices. The local energy reform and infrastructure investments must reduce the cost of energy and must be pro-growth regarding the environment. We must lower personal and corporate tax rates, eliminate outdated labor laws, ease permisology, eliminate government burocracy, negociate our government debt in a way we can responsibly honor our payments , among others, and above all let the private sector work.

We must assure that the federal funds that will enter the island will be used wisely making infrastructure resilient and sustainable for years to come and that those funds to stay in Puerto Rico’s economy in compliance with the Stafford Act, contracting local services and products manufactured in Puerto Rico.

We must understand that we can all be part of the growth of the country taking wise decisions. It is imperative to create awareness in the consumers, government, business owners about the importance of buying local products, because this means we are all helping Puerto Rico’s economy. The more we all purchase local products, on a day-to-day basis, the bigger the impact this will have in the economy. Supporting local brands will help economic growth and these products will become more competitive, therefore allowing exports. When we export we are bringing other countries money into our economy contributing to our economic and social development. We must work together, demanding a strong public policy and personal commitment from all.

These should serve as basis for streghening manufacturing and local businesses, retaining and attracting new investment from locals and from abroad thus recovering and growing our economy. Further we must not forget that a country, a nation, a state, a city... can not be considered developed without strong local capital. We welcome investment and partnerships.

Instead of seeing what happened during the summer as a sink or swim moment, we must embrace it as an opportunity to make an honest and fair inventory of our potential, our talents, and our strength, focusing on working together instead of competing with ourselves. We must also acknowledge that this moment confirms that the great majority of the people in Puerto Rico have strong values and are not willing to accept corruption or degrading behavior because we are better that that. As we pause in the calm after the storm, we must reflect on our greatness not our flaws so we can honor Puerto Rico’s name, which means Rich Port in English. Together we can return the “Rico” to Puerto Rico, a port rich in values, security, health, education, social and economic growth for all.

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