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Fortuño Sees Bright Outlook For U.S. Mainland And Puerto Rico
Improvement in stateside economy will trickle down to island
By JACQUES-CHRISTIAN WADESTRANDT
January 22, 2004
There seems to be consensus among local politicians and political observers that the anticipated economic growth on the U.S. mainland will have a favorable effect on Puerto Rico.
"Clearly, the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico economies are closely linked through a reciprocal relationship. Growth in the U.S. economy will help Puerto Rico, and a strong Puerto Rico economy will help the U.S. economy grow further," said Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila. "We must remain cautious, however, because of the fragile situation the world faces in dealing with threats from the war on terror."
According to Luis Fortuño, the New Progressive Partys candidate for resident commissioner, job creation and manufacturing productivity will continue to expand as a result of the Bush administrations tax cuts. "This should have a trickle-down effect on our economy, even if nothing significant happens here," he said. For Fortuño, Puerto Rico could be a tremendous asset, as part of the U.S., in reducing the economic disparities between the more developed countries and those less developed. He also said that Puerto Rico could undertake a more significant role in energizing the Hispanic community on the U.S. mainland to participate in national civic issues.
Fortuño indicated that from a geopolitical standpoint, Puerto Ricos importance has diminished significantly. If there were a significant change in Cuba, such as the end of the Castro regime, the pendulum could swing the other way and Cuba would be in the front row, he said.
This is why, said Fortuño, it is imperative for Puerto Rico to become more active as a center in the region to fight crime and terrorism and to cooperate with federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. He feels that the Calderon administration doesnt want to have a close relationship with Washington and that Acevedo Vila will be so involved with local issues during the gubernatorial campaign that he will be forced to resign.
Sen. Roberto Prats, the Popular Democratic Partys candidate for resident commissioner, said he also believes that improvement of the U.S. mainlands economy will have a favorable impact on Puerto Rico. He feels the island can capitalize on this economic synergy by participating in organizations such as The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta).
"This would give Puerto Rico the opportunity to insert itself into a hemispheric economic consolidation process," said Prats. "It would open countless doors for Puerto Rico, and working with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative could give us the tools to become more competitive on a whole range of products, from rum and coffee to plastics."
Prats noted that globalization has altered Puerto Ricos importance for the U.S. "We no longer enjoy the primacy we once had. However, the fact that we understand both cultures and speak both languages makes us a natural bridge between the U.S. and Latin America, particularly for service industries," he said.
"Although this is an election year and Congress will only be in session for half a year," added Prats, "Puerto Rico will remain active in trying to push for its admission into the FTAA and Cafta, as well as in finding new angles for [Internal Revenue Code] Section 956 and developing new economic-stimulus packages or any other tax incentives for the island."
Observers of the process emphasize that the task will be difficult since Congress has been skeptical of any attempts to repackage Section 956, which is perceived by some legislators as a tax break for pharmaceutical companies that wouldnt fundamentally improve living conditions in Puerto Rico.
Another factor is that the federal budget is expected to grow by approximately 3% next year, and this should also stimulate the islands economy.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.