The writer is a former UPI & AP news writer; businessman, equality fighter & political prisoner! @trueblue51 Facebook Periscope Instagram Pinterest www.franklindelanolopez.com www.NOTIUNO.com/Opinion
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
― Peter F. Drucker, Essential Drucker: Management, the Individual and Society
When you fly to Puerto Rico and you approach the coastline of San Juan with the Atlantic Ocean waves crashing against the El Morro Castle fort there is no escape of the thought of how beautiful the Island of Puerto Rico. Despite the beauty and the magic force that possessed the majority of its 3.5 millions American citizens there is a massive population exodus to the United States escaping the highest cost of living in the Americas and with a preset government policy of “fixing budget holes, mistakes, mismanagement and everything” imposing taxes to a dying contracted economy. The U. S.territory hast the lowest per capital in the United States with $ 19,200.00.
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! Last week the numbers for 2015 were appalling, 112,490 for the first ten months. It is expected that it will reached 150,000.The cost to the depressed territorial economy of the combined numbers is $ 4.347 billions dollars less impacting tax revenues, consumer consumption and every single component of the economic wheel. The U.S. Census has projected that in the next two decades more than a million will leave the beleaguered territory. This will leave Puerto Rico with a population profile of poor and old people. The effects of this will not make Puerto Rico economically feasible.
This is not the first time that I write about the population movement of Puerto Rico to the United States. The first I wrote was in a letter to President George W. Bush in the summer of 2001. Again, I wrote to the Bush White House in August 2004 when The Washington Post wrote a page 3 story with the banner: “Influx of Puerto Ricans to Central Florida Key to Presidential Election in 2004.”
The issue of the massive population exodus is only one of many ignored not only by local politicians who believed that the legislation presented by Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin) will not affect the ‘modus operandi’ of the territorial government and that nothing will change. Local colonial politicians are submerged in campaigns for elective positions in the up-coming general election of November 2016. They are also ignoring the deflation of real estate values caused by 312 thousands empty housing units generated by the population exodus and foreclosures. Last week it was published in the press that 2015 closed with a record number of foreclosed housing units of 4,500. The number of units in foreclosure process in 2015 reached 20,000. According to the U.S. Census Puerto Rico has 25% of the housing stock empty and/or abandoned.
What is more disturbing is the fact of the almost total ignorance of Washington’s of the present catastrophic condition of the territory’s economy and simply ignoring what the Inter-agency Task Force appointed by president Barack Obama that unequivocally stated “the present economic condition of Puerto Rico is intimately related to the present political status.” HR 4900, the legislation submitted by Congressman Duffy to create a Fiscal Board is mostly a legislation design for collection purposed and pay the bondholders and the hedge and vulture funds of Wall Street.
These are the components that must be included in order to effectively deal not only with the public debt of $72 billions dollars but to pave the Island’s economy on the recovery path and neutralizing the massive population exodus affecting every single component of the economic structure of Puerto Rico;
President Barack Obama included in the budget of fiscal year 2014 an allocation of $ 2.5 million dollars for a federally mandated plebiscite on the Island’s status. The assignment was approved by both Republicans and Democrats. The PROMESA legislation must include a process, once the debt issue is dealt with, to hold the plebiscite with decolonizing formulas of statehood, independence or free association. If Congress does not addressed this issue the massive population exodus will continue costing the U.S. Tax payers tens of billions of dollars in proving services by Federal, State, Counties and Municipal governments. This is a must component in the legislation. If ignored the PROMESA legislation will failed from the get go.
PROMESA cannot focused only in establishing a collection process to pay the public debt. It must also address with a comprehensive economic plan the presently affected components of the economy. Congress must consider establishing an economic plan to promote jobs creation, promote and invest in improvements to the deficient infrastructure of Puerto Rico. It should follow the model in the bipartisan legislation written by Congressmen Jack Kemp (R-Buffalo) and Robert Garcia (D-South Bronx) that created a Federal Enterprise Zone. The economic plan must be seen as a transition to rebuild the territory’s economy until the political status plebiscite is held.
PROMESA must deal with the Public Employees Pension Fund that according to according to Senator Orrin Hatch has a structural deficit of $44 billions and that it will be insolvent in two years leaving 172,000 American citizens in economic despair. Ignoring this will be a grave and appalling mistake by Congress promoting further massive population exodus and a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. PROMESA has to deal with the high utilities and production cost in order to be able to attract investments and jobs creation. The high tax base imposed by the present government that continues with a policy of solving everything by imposing taxes. In July of 2016 they will implement an added value tax that will have a devastating effect in the general economy. The present government fiscal policies have increased dramatically bankruptcies of businesses as well as individuals.
The PROMESA legislation must be very sensitive to the fact that closing government agencies, reducing the number of municipal governments and firing tens of thousands of inefficient government employees without a comprehensive economic stimulus program will have a terrible price, enhanced population exodus; economic contraction; less tax revenues and economic chaos.I know it must be done but not without a total and comprehensive plan.
The absence of an economic stimulus program, together with a debt re-structuring plan, will cost U.S Tax payers tens of billions of dollars and the dismembering of the People of Puerto Rico while the Europe is adopting a policy totally different in addressing the humanitarian crisis of the foreign victims of the wars in Syria, Afghanistan and the Middle East. The International community is closely monitoring how the United States deals with 3.5 American citizens. In 2008 the U.S. Congress and The White House bailout investment banks; banks and insurance agencies in the biggest heist of corrupt practices in the history of mankind. Not a single banker, causing the collapse of the financial system of the planer has been prosecuted by U.S. authorities. The contrast is evident. China, with its “Open Wallet” policy is making in roads in Latin America by investing more than $ 250 billions dollars in the region. Ignoring what is needed by adopting ultraconservative political posturing and disguises in the road to the 2016 election will be judge by the International community as major humanitarian blundered if not one of a criminal and negligent nature. Dismembering the people of Puerto Rico by forcing them to move to the United States may cross the line of a crime against humanity. Think about it!
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 massive population exodus continues. The only way to stop this disaster is addressing the challenges with bold leadership and not political posturing. 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 once the people votes. Hawaii proved that equality and statehood was the model solution. Its per capital speaks for itself: $53,584 in 2013. After its admission to the Union real estate values increased an average of 300% and the new state population began to increase.
If the path voted democratically by American citizens in Puerto Rico is for political equality you will see a huge influx of Puerto Ricans coming back to the Island. We need strong leadership in Washington, D.C. to correct the 117 years of the colonial and segregation suffered by American citizens in the territory of Puerto Rico.. The time to act is now!