Puerto Rico needs to attack a series of urgent needs to rebuild the island in the wake of Hurricane María, as well as find ways to incorporate more people into the workforce, said Prominent banking executive Richard Carrión.
The former Banco Popular CEO and current chairman of the Banco Popular Foundation stressed that the island needs to begin thinking about the basic actions that will change the course of Puerto Rico’s economy.
“Let’s not forget that before María, we were involved in another storm that had been going on for 10 years and that resulted in a default and quasi-bankruptcy,” he said. “We had a pretty complex situation, when suddenly hurricane hit and revealed some of the problems that were already there.”
Puerto Rico has to see about rebuilding in a different way because not doing so “will put us back to where we were on Sept. 19, which was not a very good place,” he said. Hurricane María tore through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017.
Having a different future will require focusing on several areas, he said, namely: infrastructure, credit — reaching some sort of an agreement with Puerto Rico’s creditors — and how to create more jobs.
“We have to get more people to work and seek out the impediments for that to happen,” he said, noting that Puerto Rico’s current 39 percent workforce is significantly lower than other places, including neighboring island nations. “For me, that’s fundamental.”
Carrión stressed that Puerto Rico must be rigorous in measuring the impact of its strategies and set goals to get a greater percentage of the population back on payrolls.
“I believe that the solution depends on us. Federal funds are fundamental, but it will depend on our attitude and how we will find new ways. Doing the same thing will not change anything,” he said. “It won’t be easy. It won’t fall from the sky. We have to sit down, roll our sleeves, keep metrics and change.”