Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Solidarity and Cooperation: Alternative Premises for an Economic National Plan, Part II

The market competition is unjust and unfair. The economic structures protect the interests of the capital owner. Their goal is personal gain, an aim for higher profits. Individualism governs their conduct. By that logic it is intended to address collective problems. The economic and social costs of such behavior are ignored. For this reason, the economic program adopted by the New Progressive Party can not be considered a master plan for the nation’s future. It is simply the agenda of the private business sector, a social group that does not represent the majority of the Puerto Rican people and the diversity of interests prevailing in it.

Take for example the Caribbean Riviera, one of the pillars of the economic program of this administration. The proposed development for the east region of the country is conceived as a unique tourist destination and a world-class paradise for gambling. For the government, the project will compete with gaming sites such as Monte Carlo (Monaco), Sun City (South Africa) and Atlantis (Bahamas). It will also have luxury homes and shops. [See Caribbean Business, 25 June 2009 and July 2, 2009]

The objective of this proposal is to attract visitors to the island with a high purchasing power. Residents in the east region and the rest of Puerto Rico are excluded from the enjoyment of such site. They are supposed to be "grateful" for the low paid jobs to be created and be "happy" watching the cruise ships come and the tourists buying expensive merchandise in the shops. “Such is life”?

In the absence of an economic program that meets the needs of the majority of Puerto Ricans, public administrators encourage us to play Loto and Revancha. The fate becomes the only proposal to address the precarious economic condition of workers. A situation for which there is not an encouraging scenario in the future.

According to the Puerto Rico Planning Board, in the last fiscal year production decreased 5.5%. During the first seven months of 2009 the number of bankruptcies rose to 6,386 cases, an increase of 28% compared to the same period last year. Last July, the labor participation rate fell to 43%, the lowest figure in twenty years. The unemployment rate is at 16.5%, the highest level since 1994 (excluding the partial shutdown of government agencies in May 2006). The private sector continues to make significant reductions in their payroll. While the Government have laid off about 7,000 public servants and are expected to lay off another 20,000 employees over the end of the fiscal year 2009-10. While the economic activities continue to be articulated in terms of personal gain and there is no social commitment of the various institutions and participants in the market it will be extremely difficult to articulate any plan that can be able to meet our main collective needs. It is necessary to find alternatives to individualism and competition. The Caño Martín Peña Trust, the Piñones se Integra Corporation, Taller Cé, and Iniciativa Comunitaria offer other models by which we can organize and work to meet basic needs such as housing, education, health and entertainment. In all these experiences cooperation and solidarity emerge as alternatives.

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