The peaceful tone of the recent protests that toppled former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and the unifying demand for a clean government counteracted Donald Trump’s negative portrayal of the island, according to economist Kiernan “KC” Conway.
During the unrest, President Trump took to Twitter to slam Puerto Rico's public officials. “I know the people of Puerto Rico well, and they are great. But much of their leadership is corrupt, & robbing the U.S. Government blind!” he tweeted.
But last Friday, after his keynote speech “Trends in Commercial Real Estate: Adaptive Reuse and the Issues Affecting the Industry” during a meeting of the Puerto Rico CCIM Chapter, Conway explained that he was in New York at the time of the political crisis.
Did the largely peaceful protests help dispel Puerto Rico’s negative imagine? asked THE WEEKLY JOURNAL.
“Absolutely. I was in Wall Street doing some stuff for capital sources and rating agencies. All of them commented that given all the things Puerto Rico had to deal with, how the people handled this transition of power and turmoil. It was pretty amazing. One of them said maybe Hong Kong and China should take a cue from Puerto Rico,” the economist responded.
For Conway, the remarks about corruption are also unfair since they are made on plain assumptions. “I think it is disingenuous to tag Puerto Rico with that and I think it is quite a testament in the evolution from the recovery. You guys are saying, ‘We have to rebuild. We are also going to rebuild the integrity and the accountability.’ Capital loves that story. That will bring more capital here.”
Despite Trump’s Twitter tirades, the economist recommended not to engage in a public fight with the businessman and television personality, but rather adopt a lobbying strategy.
“You work behind the scenes. You know the expression ‘speak softly and carry a big stick.' The big stick is the industry groups. They work behind the scenes with Congress that actually makes the laws. He can bawl all he wants, but he did not make the laws. He did not make the budget. Congress did. Many leaders in both, the House (of Representatives) and the Senate don’t have anything against Puerto Rico. But they are busy with other issues, so when you have powerful industry groups in an election year, and ours is one of the biggest lobbying groups, we can say ‘we want to add one more item on our discussion agenda, we want you to support some legislation to help Puerto Rico,' but no one is bringing it up.”
In Conway’s view, Puerto Rico has been forgotten and treated “unfairly and punitively.” Therefore, he advocated for professional groups and organizations to create partnerships to advance the island’s interests and finally receive the long-awaited reconstruction aid.
With more than 30 years of experience in commercial real estate, Conway is a nationally recognized expert and speaker on a wide range of topics, ranging from appraisals and bank regulations to ports and securitization. His areas of specialty include housing, industrial, litigation support, industrial and office real estate, North American ports and land development.
Conway is a frequent speaker for the Federal Reserve, FDIC, FHLB, state bank commissioners, academic groups, professional organizations and industry associations. He previously served as chief economist for Colliers International - US.