Puerto Rico must implement effective measures to fight poverty and prevent that large sectors of the population see their productive potential limited by the lack of human and economic development opportunities.
The government, private sectors, and community organizations in Puerto Rico should embrace those partnerships seeking to invest in our people´s talents while fighting poverty and inequality.
The Third Sector and private companies have developed projects to help poor families in mountain and other marginalized areas. However, different administrations have not been able to design, let alone implement, public policies to eradicate the factors that increase poverty.
Reviewing the Sustainable Development Goals, designed to globally fight this social and economic scourge, becomes an essential task in the debate promoted by the United Nations during the recently celebrated International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Assuming poverty as a human rights problem related to the lack of decent housing and access to basic services such as health care and education, among other limitations is one of those goals.
Hurricane María in 2017 and delays in recovery and reconstruction processes show that poverty in Puerto Rico is a clear, concrete problem. More than two years after the hurricane, nearly 30,000 families are still living under fragile plastic awnings.
The government is still awaiting the U.S. to disburse $ 8.2 billion through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR). Although these funds would boost economic lines such as construction, the delay in access to these resources should lead to other alternatives seeking to create jobs that will help to reduce poverty.
The UN stresses that poverty goes beyond the lack of income and resources to ensure sustainable living conditions. It is a human rights problem with aspects that include poor nutritional status, and educational and public health limitations. Discrimination and social exclusion, such as limiting the participation of marginalized sectors in decision-making processes that affect them join the list of factors leading to poverty.
In Puerto Rico, the effort to eradicate poverty must address the lack of opportunities for families with children lacking early education programs and for unemployed adults who have children. For that reason, the creation of sustainable jobs must be a priority among our goals of social justice and economic growth. Obstacles to subsidizing health programs for vulnerable populations is also part of this list.
Therefore, it is crucial to ensure better education opportunities and health services for poverty-struck people, hand in hand with government efforts to restructure government debt and drive the island back into capital markets.
Deficiencies during the 2017 emergency and the governor stepping down last August lay the ground to start considering the demand of a multisectoral intervention leading the political class to stop ignoring poverty and the thousands of Puerto Ricans who suffer it daily.
These UN sustainable development goals become really important for the resilient Puerto Rico project after the hurricanes struck the island two years ago. Puerto Rican leaders must comply with them in order to design a comprehensive public policy that fights poverty. This way we will be able to advance in the construction of a less vulnerable Puerto Rico, with greater opportunities and less inequality.