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Editorial & Column
LMM Is Good And Getting Better Victory Tour
By FRANCISCO JAVIER CIMADEVILLA
July 22, 2004
Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (LMM), Puerto Ricos hub of the Caribbean and gateway to the world, is good and getting better. New stores, a totally renovated hotel, and a $245.1 million, five-year new capital-improvements program will continue maintaining our airport as one of the best in the country.
The LMM is something to be proud of. In the last 20 years, it has undergone continued upgrades and expansions. New terminals, new control tower, new multilevel parking, and more air-conditioned areas are just some.
Government administrations of both major political parties are to be commended for the business-like approach with which they have managed the LMM, not only because it is the Ports Authoritys biggest income-producing asset, but because of its importance for Puerto Rico and the region.
To be fair, the private sector deserves credit also, particularly the dominant carrier at the airport, American Airlines, but others too, for continuously investing millions of dollars to expand and improve their own facilities.
The most recent initiative to develop and upgrade the commercial retail offerings at the airport is another step in the right direction. Airports are places where many people spend hours either waiting for a flight or in transit while connecting, particularly now that heightened security measures require earlier arrival before catching a plane. There is a great business opportunity for better, more attractive, well-run retail shops and restaurants, just like you have in every major airport stateside.
The challenge for the Ports Authoritys Aviation Division continues to be what to do with the other 10 airports around the island. No matter how minimal the commercial aviation activity in most of them is, their maintenance continues to be a drain for the financially troubled agency. While LMM airport is a profitable operation, the 10 regional airports left losses amounting to $15.4 million in 2003.
Perhaps someone should think this one through a little better. Because $15 million in taxpayers money down the drain is nothing to sneeze at. And while we do need some regional airports besides the LMM, on an island our size we certainly dont need 10 of them.
The private sector is claiming victory after the local legislature finally rejected a slew of bills that CARIBBEAN BUSINESS had warned would hinder Puerto Ricos economic development.
The bills ranged from antimonopoly legislation that was nothing more than a measure to protect the market niche of particular retailers, to a series of measures that would have added more government bureaucracy and would have jacked up even higher the cost of doing business on the island.
Following two consecutive business alert front page stories in which we dedicated more than 20 pages to warn about the disastrous effect that the proposed legislation would have on the islands economy (CB May 27, June 3), the fight became more vocal, more intense and more effective. The issues became matters of general interest in the dailies, on radio and on the evening news.
Congratulations are in order. But instead of getting all complacent about their victory, private sector organizations ought to draw important lessons from the experience.
First, dont wait till its an emergency. Business organizations ought to be vigilant and proactive always, not just in the last few days of the legislative session. The job of lobbying the legislature to protect the best interests of Puerto Ricos economy is a full-time job.
Second, lose the fear to speak out. If every other group in Puerto Ricosome of them just a handful of peoplemakes their voices heard and opinions known as they fight for their best interests, why shouldnt business groups of thousands of people do the same? After all, businesses, through their investment and risk-taking, are the ones that create jobs in this economy.
Third, do your part to educate our people. A widespread understanding of the blessings of a free market economy cant be taken for granted. They have to be explained and taught. As our government, our schools and broad sectors of the press wont, it behooves the private sector to do it.
Complaining at the 11th hour that large sectors of the public opinion, including some other media, are adverse to business is just not good enough.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.