Manufacturers Association says private sector must be involved in Washington politics
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association insisted Thursday that Puerto Rico and its private sector must become involved in Washington politics regardless of who wins the presidential election to promote new economic development initiatives for the island.
After analyzing the political platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties and their implications for Puerto Rico, Manufacturers Association President Rodrigo Masses Artze stressed the importance for the private sector to get involved in federal policies and predicted that if Hillary Clinton becomes president, the island would see greater benefits.
“What we are seeing in D.C., my assessment is a Hillary Clinton White House is going to better for Puerto Rico than the Barack Obama White House. Most of the Democratic Party leadership understands what is happening in Puerto Rico,” Masses Artze said.
Former Resident Commissioner Antonio “Tito” Colorado, a former Economic Development administrator who was one of the entrepreneurs to analyze the Democratic platform, noted that 80% of what happens in Puerto Rico is a consequence of what happens in the United States. Therefore, it is important to participate in things that happen in Washington.
“We must participate in everything we can to make ourselves known and make ourselves relevant in the United States as we were in the past. The closest Puerto Rico was to asking for statehood was during the years in which Puerto Rico helped the United States and we obtained eight treatises for the United States. We were truly partners. We were the image of the United States in the Caribbean and Central America. Here, in these platforms, there were Democrats and Republicans who were Puerto Ricans. This allows us to tell them what we need and what we can offer. It is very important that we have participation in the two parties, and in the Democratic Party, we have more participation than the other states,” Colorado said.
He added that another big problem in Puerto Rico is that the labor-force participation rate is at only 40%.
“The first thing we have to do is sit down with the Americans to see how we can use funds allocated to us to give more to those who work. The diaspora is important, everything in Washington is politics: money and votes. We have two million Puerto Ricans who vote there, and they can have an influence on many issues. U.S. policy is important to us. In Washington you don’t seek, you’re going to give and then you will receive,” he said.
Former Chamber of Commerce President Luis Torres Llompart noted that another roadblock Puerto Rico is facing to overcome its fiscal crisis is the lack of private sector interest to do business with the States.
“I was always asked in the United States what is happening to the private sector of Puerto Rico that doesn’t come out to do business, that they are comfortable in the island and don’t go out to seek new opportunities, and that is why the [Private Sector] Coalition has been trying strongly for some time to participate in discussions about Puerto Rico in Washington,” Torres Llompart said.
John F. Woodroffe, former Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. director, stressed that the next governor of Puerto Rico has to get on a plane and negotiate projects in the United States for Puerto Rico.
Meanwhile, Jaime Morgan Stubbe, former Economic Development administrator, noted that the fiscal control board will allow the next governor to pursue strategies to promote economic development.
“The board will take care of the administrative side so I think it would be a good strategy for the next governor to dedicate his time to economic development,” Morgan Stubbe said.