Puerto Rico faces the challenge of urgently reversing its projected population loss, particularly that of young people, who are the main capital of production that economic development requires.
At least two factors are associated with our population reduction: the drop in birth rates and emigration. Migration cycles, in particular, are often associated with major crises. In Puerto Rico, economic crisis have caused mass exodus. This current population loss is not the exception, hence the projection of the International Data Base program, which predicts that by 2050 the island’s population would be reduced to two million inhabitants.
The goal is not only to stop the population loss, but to reverse it. The key is to prioritize economic recovery as an incentive to stay in Puerto Rico and for the return of those who emigrated in search of opportunities.
Through the development of its economy and infrastructure, Puerto Rico will be able to provide the economic activity that creates jobs, whose shortage is the main cause of youth emigration. The certainty of progress will stop the exodus.
Our island, like every place that calls for progress, needs innovation, much of which comes from young people, who thrive on new trends, with their studies and experiences. The generational balance is equally necessary for social welfare.
The talent of the population sector of greater productivity is key for the development of the island’s projects. Its productivity is linked to the health of the Treasury, which is a source for funding the services associated with quality of life, and initiatives for economic development.
Growth has to translate into the optimization of essential services such as health care, education, safety and housing, whose deterioration has forced emigration.
The key is to determine viable projects that reduce the high costs of living and the shortage of jobs, factors that affect both the exodus and birth rates. The declining birth rate may be associated to the perception of public insecurity and the difficulties women face - especially those with limited resources - in raising children.
It is therefore necessary to fully implement structural reforms capable of encouraging the socioeconomic development of Puerto Rico. Energy transformation and tax and education reforms are a priority.
A plan that transforms the business climate and brings capital will allow us to face the population phenomena that stems from the current economic weakness of our island.
If rightly focused, Puerto Rico can get the most out of its strengths. Our ability to produce and export to the mainland and nearby countries markets; our highly qualified human resources, and our tech-based industries are some of our advantages. Manufacturing, tourism and agricultural activities have shown potential for growth.
Support for energy transformation is a crucial step for the industrial and commercial activity that island needs. The opportunity for growth is strengthened by the injection of federal recovery funds after the devastation caused by Hurricane María.
We all know that federal assistance is temporary. Therefore, it is essential for government authorities to develop long-term plans away from the opportunist policy that adds to the population exodus.
The implementation of an economic plan that looks to the future is the key to a prosperous Puerto Rico.
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