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Willie is a man for all seasons


May 6, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

William "Willie" Miranda Marín runs Caguas just as a CEO manages a corporation, with a close eye on the bottom line and the objective of stimulating economic growth, creating jobs, and supporting development. While many municipalities in Puerto Rico are battling with budget deficits and struggling to obtain more funds, the Caguas mayor closed fiscal 2004 with a surplus of almost $7 million.

Although we often see island mayors taking sides with those who oppose business development, in Caguas, Miranda Marín has taken a strong pro-business stance, recognizing as he well puts it "the importance of economic development for the entire community."

Despite the fact that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has been practically at a standstill, with the executive and legislative branches blaming each other for the government’s idleness, Miranda Marín continues to move the city of Caguas forward. And, he is doing so by stimulating private-sector investment and taking advantage of tax-incentive laws intended to revitalize Puerto Rico’s urban areas.

Already there is almost $80 million in private investment targeted toward transforming the Caguas downtown area into a 21st-century city with state-of-art modern office buildings and facilities with sufficient parking, and there are additional investments in the pipeline throughout the entire país de Caguas, as Miranda Marín calls his municipality. These are added to the new Caguas Centro de Bellas Artes, the biggest in Puerto Rico, now also a part of downtown Caguas. Once these new projects are completed, Caguas undoubtedly will become a greater magnet for commerce, services, tourism, and cultural events, among others.

Miranda Marín’s efforts have begun paying off. Unemployment in Caguas averages about 8%, substantially below Puerto Rico’s average rate and the municipality has managed to achieve a lower unemployment rate without depending heavily on the government for jobs. In fact, only 40 cents out of every dollar spent by the municipality goes toward payroll in comparison to 60 cents by the central government. Overall, 90% of the Commonwealth’s revenue is spent on payroll, operational expenses, and servicing the $40 billion government debt. Caguas also has fewer families living under the poverty rate than the overall average reported in Puerto Rico.

Caguas is a city that works and works well with a mayor who performs more like the chief executive officer of a corporation than a politician, reducing spending and luring greater investments for growth and expansions. Although he believes in reduced government and greater private-sector development, it hasn’t cost him any votes. On the contrary, electoral support for Miranda Marín crosses all party lines and political ideologies; a fact proven in the November 2004 election when the mayor was re-elected to a third term with an overwhelming 63% of the votes.

Willie has achieved socioeconomic improvement in his city by following a strategic development plan established several years ago and keeping to it; by working with and supporting the private sector as a facilitator; and by cutting back on unnecessary spending, attracting private investment, and providing developers with the necessary support and expediting the permitting process. Miranda Marín firmly believes the government should be the provider of services that are necessarily and essentially public; the rest should be left in the hands of the private sector with government support.

Every political leader in Puerto Rico could learn from Miranda Marín’s example. Caguas has changed with the times. The mayor is bringing new life to his municipality, revitalizing the city’s downtown center, and creating new housing developments near the town’s center to help bring back residents of all income levels to the area, a fact that surely will help local retailers who have faced stiff competition from malls. He is doing so without the usual politicking or attacks on political opponents. This mayor clearly has demonstrated he is more concerned with the well-being, wealth, and prosperity of every one of Caguas’ residents and those who reside in adjacent municipalities, and not just the people who share his political ideology. It’s too bad our leaders in the executive and legislative branches don’t share Willie’s pro-Puerto Rico attitude, regardless of political parties, colors, or ideologies. Puerto Rico needs more leaders like Willie. He truly has proven to be a man for all seasons.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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