by Franklin D. López
Former United Press International and The Associated Press writer
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“Losing the notion of what is a priority or obvious derails the path towards resolving it’s own destiny.”-FDL
A long time friend, who presides over a large business conglomerate in Puerto Rico, called two weeks ago and gave me the results of a recent poll made in the archipelago. The poll revealed that 8% of the 3,411,307 Puerto Ricans have decided to move to the United States. This percentage represents 272,904 American citizens in the territory are leaving to find a better life in the states of the Union. The immediate impact to Puerto Rico’s economy of this massive population exodus is that $5.281 billion dollars will not circulate in the territorial economy. This based on the U.S. Census Bureau per capita median household income of 2016 which is $ 19,350.
The poll also reveals that another 8% of the population is considering leaving Puerto Rico. That is another 272,904 additional American citizens leaving the archipelago. The total massive population exodus would be a staggering 545,808 fewer people residing in Puerto Rico in the next couple of years. I have been writing and expressing the serious and grave effects to the fragile territorial economy of a massive population exodus since Governor Sila María Calderon invited commander Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela to her inauguration on January 2, 2001. But in the largest of 14 colonial regimes on the planet, the art of fine listening has been lost.
CNN in a recent investigative report indicated that in 2014, during the Alejandro García Padilla administration (PPD 2013-2016), 84,000 Americans citizens moved from Puerto Rico to the United States. This exodus trend is made easy since Puerto Ricans are American citizens by birth since the approval of the Jones Act by Congress in 1917. During the 1950s more than 500,000 moved to the United States, mostly to New York. It is obvious that the massive exodus is solid evidence of the failure and collapse of the present colonial governmental structure of “free associated state” or “commonwealth!” On June 29, 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that since 2005 Puerto Rico lost 9% of its population. The story emphasized the loss of doctors and the highly educated. The Financial Times also reported on August 25, 2016 the dire trend of massive population exodus from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland.
Hurricane Irma passed 35 miles northeast from the Puerto Rico archipelago collapsing the fragile and maintenance forgotten power grid. As of this writing, approximately 300,000 subscribers of the territorial Power Authority are still without electricity. For decades gubernatorial administrations began a fatal policy of using the money making the crown jewel of the public corporations to cover up budget deficits and holes. This led to an almost total maintenance abandonment of the power distribution and generating platform. Today the Power Authority is in insolvent and bankrupt with plans to privatize it. The frustration of the population with the inability of the territory’s government to provide efficient and basic services such as electricity and water will fuel massive exodus further. Just to give you an idea of the incompetence of past territorial government 60% of the treated drinking water is lost through leaks in the distribution system. This represents a loss $678.6 millions a year to the Water & Sewer Authority.
In previous commentaries in my blog (www.franklindelanolopez.com) I mentioned the serious and dire conditions of the values of real estate properties in Puerto Rico. The real estate market is going through a historical deflation. In 2010 the U.S. Census Bureau reported 262,000 housing units in Puerto Rico were empty. Since then the number is around 300,000 plus units. In the past three years (2015-2017) more than 14,000 housing units have been foreclosed. The number of foreclosures in 2017 is projected to be 6,214 units affecting bank’s stability and liquidity. See graphics.
The massive exodus is already expanding businesses closings, bankruptcies and shrinking revenues, to a bankrupt and insolvent government, the product of corruption and public waste. The territory’s high energy and water rates have been a obstacle for attracting external investments, new industries and job creation, together to an over taxed population. Washington’s present political turmoil, volatility and power fragmentation has overlooked the multi-billions cost of the massive exodus to the Nation’s U.S. Treasury, state, counties and municipal budgets. The impact of providing governmental services to an American citizens relocating from Puerto Rico into the United States is 2.7 times more than in the territory. It is cheaper for Congress to grant political equality through statehood which is the only status solution that will keep Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. If independence is granted 92% of the population expressed it’s intentions of moving to the U.S. mainland.
The effects of the massive population exodus on the American battleground states landscape will benefit the chances of the Democrats to regain control of the U.S. House of Representative and may be the U.S. Senate. A poll conducted in the state of Florida revealed that 65% of Puerto Ricans relocating in the state identified themselves as Democrats. 2018 is around the corner and time will tell. I don’t have to go into the details of the effects in a close election.
But the main concern of the present massive exodus is that neither the Trump Administration, Congress, the Federal Supervisory Fiscal Board and the local territorial government have not even addressed or seriously analyzed the gravity of it’s social, economical and political effects on Puerto Rico as a stable and effective society. The implementation of a strong and fatal government austerity cuts board by the Federal Fiscal Board, without a significant economic stimulus and job creation program will further the massive exodus, dismembering the social fabric of the Puerto Rican family. If the results of the cited poll materializes, losing 16% of the 3.4 millions people, Puerto Rican present social and economic structure will collapse. Losing the notion of what is a priority or obvious derails the path towards resolving it’s own destiny. This issue must be addressed by the powers that be. Being passive or doing nothing is not an option! The time to act is now!
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