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Difficulty Gathering Statistics Keeps P.R. From Joining WEF Ranking

Procomp’s New Board Refocuses On Island’s Competitiveness In Global Economy


March 25, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico hasn’t been included in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report because it is difficult to gather reliable statistics on the island and poll high-level executives in the private sector, said Francisco Montalvo Fiol, president of Centro Puertorriqueño Para La Competitividad (Procomp).

"That Puerto Rico doesn’t evaluate its performance in simple aspects such as the island’s business climate and technological preparedness, for example, pushes the island back when economic trends of integration and globalization take a predominant role," said Montalvo Fiol, who is also a professor at the University of Puerto Rico.

He added that now that Puerto Rico is in the running to host the permanent secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the island’s evaluation according to WEF standards becomes more relevant.

The WEF is dedicated to promoting better business practices and greater competitiveness around the world for an improved economy and quality of life. Each year, the WEF issues a report on the competitiveness of dozens of countries in terms of business climate, technological innovations, infrastructure, government services, and environmental concerns. It considers a country’s economic data, demographics, and other statistics (provided by the government), as well as the poll responses of corporate executives.

In 2002, Procomp ran a preliminary study of Puerto Rico’s competitiveness using government statistics and the feedback of 200 business professionals. Based on the results, Puerto Rico would have ranked No. 41 among 81 countries, 17 spots behind Chile but first among Caribbean countries, followed closely by Trinidad & Tobago.

Montalvo Fiol said Procomp, whose volunteer members come from government and the private sector, has sought the government’s help in addressing the difficulties which have excluded Puerto Rico from the WEF report, but there have been no major results. Private organizations such as the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association and the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (PRCC) have supported the initiative.

In 2003, Gov. Sila M. Calderon did sign into law a bill to create a Statistics Bureau for Puerto Rico, so figures on employment, government finances, crime, and more would be gathered and be available to the public in one place. Nearly 30 agencies currently gather statistics, but they are kept separately.

"Regardless of the ranking we might receive, being on the WEF list puts Puerto Rico on the global map. It will help us to know our strengths and our limitations. Worldwide investors are considering competitiveness indicators before entering into any business," said Rafael Martinez, economic analysis director of the Government Development Bank (GDB) and a volunteer with Procomp.

For Carmen Marti, Procomp’s first vice president, the obstacles Puerto Rico has faced in joining the WEF ranking clearly reveal a need for change on the island. "It is evident the private sector is the key to ensuring economic development. If we don’t act now, Puerto Rico will become an isolated island in the Caribbean," she said. "It is time to establish a certain degree of organization within the public and private sectors, to strengthen the entrepreneurial culture, to support emerging businesses, and to establish and follow a clear public policy on economy."

Procomp’s agenda for 2004 includes promoting a competitiveness certification for companies, similar to International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certifications, and entering into alliances with the PRCC and with the municipality of Caguas, which will adopt Procomp’s vision for Puerto Rico. It also intends to become a resource on competitiveness for companies that want to improve their business practices and identify new business opportunities.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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