2.09.2007

Puerto Rico - Island In Distress

Lynda Baquero has completed a two part television report on Puerto Rico entitled Island in Distress. Part 1 is Puerto Rican Economy Buoyed By U.S. Tax Dollars and Part II is Puerto Rican Gov't Hopes For Economic Turnaround.

The report confirms much of what's already known about the current state of Puerto Rico--a place once known as Isla del Encanto.

Crime is sky high. As of the production of the report, the island had already registered 75 murders for the year.

The island's economy is a wreck. According to the Brookings Institute and the island-based Center for a New Economy, no one is employed in 37% in families of married couples with children. Twenty-five percent of the undemployed men say they're disabled. And a typical single mother earns just $40 more per week than she'd earn on public assistance.

People are leaving the island. Real estate brokers note the growing number of closed businesses and homes for sale.

Lynda Baquero gives Governor of Puerto Rico Anibal Acevedo Vila ample opportunity to say why Americans on the mainland should believe that things under his tenure are improving, but he unfortunately falls flat.

On crime the Governor says things are improving. Oh, really!! Then the 75 murders in a few short weeks is OK? Frankly, the Governor should've have taken the opportunity to reassure the mainland viewers that he understands the problem and that he's fixing it. Instead, he seems to be denying the problem--which is always much worse. Unfortunately, he's lost any credibilty.

He does sort of acknowledges the bad unemployment numbers. He cuts Baquero off and blurts out something about jobs. But he doesn't seem too concern. For example, he attributes people leaving the island to the ebb and flow of migratory patterns--as if those patterns aren't the direct result of the horrendously poor economic decisions of the island's governors and legislative leaders.

The Governor's remedy for jobs: the U.S. Congress--and Biotech. In other words, he's counting on fixes which at best may provide a partial answer.

Acevedo served as a nonvoting member of U.S. Congress and he's counting on his friends (such as New Jersey's Senator Robert Menendez) for help--although he doesn't say what sort of help he's looking for from those friends. Presumably, the senator will help work up some tax or funding arrangement through the new Democrat controlled Congress that involves New Jersey's large pharmaceutical industry expanding their manufacturing presence in Puerto Rico. But those cards have already been played and Senator Menendez will have his hands full delivering for his constituencies in New Jersey.

While Congress may be pressured into doing something more, it's not likely to be anything near the silver bullet that Acevedo may be wishing for. For example, Biotech is a promising industry, and it does make sense given Puerto Rico's current investment in pharmaceuticals, but it produces relatively few jobs--and most require high level skills. Again, good, but not good enough by itself.

Although Baquero, whose parents are from Puerto Rico, tried very hard to give Puerto Rico and Governor Acevedo a lift, her story's message is a gloomy one. But it's not her fault. As long as Puerto Ricans continues electing smug low-lights from the San Juan-based oligarchy, people that believe economic development begins and ends with a hand-out from the U.S. Congress, Puerto Rico's future is ever so bleak.