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WOW News

The Dilemma Of Competitiveness: Is Puerto Rico Ready?

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

June 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW News. All rights reserved. 

Puerto Rico is on the road to competitiveness, but it needs to reformulate its government, invest in technology and the education system, and innovate with new ideas and projects in order to keep the pace.

That was the common agreement between the experts who participated as speakers in the economic forum "Factors Affecting Puerto Rico Competitiveness" sponsored by the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (PRCC) during its 90th annual convention held at El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo.

Edgar Quiñones and Francisco Montalvo Fiol, experts in management and consulting and members of the organization Puerto Rico Competitiveness (PROCOMP), urged PRCC members to adopt a self-motivational spirit to transform Puerto Rico into a real island of enchantment.

The duo, who embarked on a campaign to get one million signatures of people committed to a revamped social and economic agenda presented some figures issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the island’s competitiveness after an initial survey conducted among Puerto Rico executives.

Fiol explained that Puerto Rico’s competitiveness is ranked 41st out of 80 countries evaluated by the WEF, while countries like Finland, Singapore, and Taiwan, which have a similar population and geographical extension, are ranked among the most competitive countries.

According to the WEF report, Puerto Rico needs to improve its infrastructure, protection of private property, credit opportunities for entrepreneurs, training human resources training, and its ethics, among other aspects. Also the government needs to improve its education system, adopt technology as a tool for improvement, and develop "industrial clusters."

Deborah L. Wince-Smith, chairwoman of the non-profit United States Council on Competitiveness said that investment in innovation, the strength of institutions and the flexibility of the business culture during the 90’s served as a base to transform the American economy into the only one in the world capable of growing, creating new jobs, and increasing the standard of living without inflation.

In addition, Wince-Smith stressed that, according to the Global Competitiveness Report 2003 issued by the Council and the World Economic Forum, America is the most competitive economy in the world.

Wince-Smith–who heads the only American organization made up of top-level executives, academics and labor leaders–said that investing in research & development and in technology projects is fundamental for a country’s success, since these activities are innovative ways that contribute to the country’s productivity. That sense of innovation, according to Wince-Smith, needs to be linked to a new sense of safety and security to ensure economic continuity.

"Since September 11, 2001 and for the first time in our history, there is an attack on businesses, workers and infrastructure. The economic targets were attacked through the economic pathway," she added.

The executive made emphasized in that countries need to make "economic decisions" and not political ones in order to promote a better quality of life among constituents.

She also pointed out that Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States places the island in a better condition to achieve its own competitiveness since trade liberalization trends give the island an opportunity to participate actively while exploiting its knowledge of the English language and Hispanic business cultures.

Wince-Smith urged entrepreneurs to cultivate their relationship with the mainland and "not underestimate their economic value."

Secretary of Commerce & Economic Development Milton Segarra, who participated in the forum, said the government needs to listen to its businesspeople to solve the island’s problems and limitations, and to develop independent standard ways to evaluate the island’s performance and productivity.

Bartolome Gamundi said, "Puerto Rican entrepreneurs need to change the perception that competitiveness means lower salaries."

He said that legal disputes and their costs tremendously affect the quality of life, as well as the sense of competition which predominates among businesses.

Gamundi lambasted the education system, saying "we need to teach more science, math, and ethics," but praised the efforts of non-profit organizations such Puerto Rico Community Foundation and International Amnesty for winning people’s recognition through the objective discussion of society’s problems.

Finally, Luis Romero Font, chairman of Cellpage, said local businesses and citizens need to push government to transform itself, and to respond to the demands of globalization.

In order to improve the island’s competitiveness, he urged entrepreneurs to act firmly and with a sense of will to request the end for government bureaucracy, the underground economy and the incidence of crime.

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