by Franklin D. López
The writer is a former UPI & AP news writer; businessman, equality fighter & political prisoner!
The Atlantic Ocean waves were hitting hard the Northern coast of Puerto Rico in the new year. It was like an emblematic act of things to come to the embattled United States territory. The “El Nuevo Dia” Puerto Rico largest newspapers publishes the first big story of the massive population exodus from Puerto Rico to the United States. The headline read: “72,000 Emigrated in 2014!” But when you read the story the number of people leaving the archipelago in the first nine months of 2014 was 114,000!
May be the paper’s editors did not wanted to promote a panic environment an decided to use the lower number.
What is fascinating of the behavior of the media, professional groups, economist and banks regarding the massive exodus is the “punch druggy effect” of not knowing how to deal with the issue. Many Latin American countries and even the United States provide extraordinary incentives to attract retirees. This segment of the population, usually have a pension and medical plan and some savings. When they move the rent housing, buy cars, consume and pay taxes. Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and Ecuador have been the leaders in successfully attracting retirees to live there.
Why a population incentive program does not work in Puerto Rico? A simple reason: Puerto Rico has become the jurisdiction in the Americas with the most expensive cost of living. High income taxes; electricity, water and more than 80% of products are imported from the United States and abroad increasing their cost. At the same time wages are very lowest in all of the state of the Union and territories. Puerto Rico per capital is $19,200.00 and the per capital of the poorest state, Mississippi, is $36,919.00. A difference of more than $20,000.00 a year.
But what it is highly worrisome is the absence of knowledge of the catastrophic impact in all segments of the economy of this massive population exodus. If you use the Puerto Rico per capital number of $19,200.00 the cost of the 114,000 Puerto Ricans who fled the dismal economic conditions of the colonial “commonwealth” in the overall economy is $ 2.188 billions dollars. At the same time, this population exodus is taking the best and educated segment of the middle class with the immediate impact of reducing tax revenues, consumption and economic contraction.
The other effect is the social one. Massive population exodus affects the social fiber and structure of the people of Puerto Rico. Families divided. Abandoned homes and small businesses. Deflation of the real estate market among other areas that will impact the government’s ability to overcome the serious economic crisis. The economic policies enacted by the present colonial government of Puerto Rico are responsible in enhancing the exodus. The proposed “added value tax” of 14 to 23% disguise as a income tax reform will promote further the exits of hundreds of thousands to the United States. It cost twice as more to tax payers in the United States to serve and provide services to the incoming Puerto Rican population.
The United States should review it’s 117 years old failed colonial policy in Puerto Rico. The Island will not be politically, economically and socially viable if the U.S. Census Bureau project population for 2050 of 2.3 to 2.9 million people becomes a reality. The only viable way to end this crisis is to admit Puerto Rico as a state of the Union and using the $2.5 millions approved by Congress and signed by the President to promote a yes or no Federally sponsored Referendum. If the People of Puerto Rico ratifies equality as a state of the Union Puerto Rico will be admitted as it’s 51st. The Obama administration broke the United States policy of 56 years of the economic embargo to Cuba. Now it is the time to end the 117 years failed colonial regime policy. Hawaii proved that equality and statehood was the solution. Its per capital speaks for itself: $53,584 in 2013. After its admission to the Union real estate values in creased an average of 300% and the new state population began to increase. Under the colonial “commonwealth” real estate values have fallen between 40% to 60%. If the U.S. Government ignores with benign neglect the results of the November 9, 2013 plebiscite in status the current economic crisis will become an international issue and an embarrassment to the Nation.
China is quietly making in roads in Latin America with a massive $250 billions dollars in loans and investments. Meanwhile Washington, D.C. is projecting to the World it’s adversarial position against Immigration Reform and ignoring the “breaking bad” of a society integrated by 3.6 million American citizens that pays more Federal taxes than 6 states of the Union. We need bold leadership in Washington, D.C. to correct the 117 years of the colonial and segregation mistake suffered by Puerto Ricans. The time to act is now!