Looking to present solutions to the island’s deep economic crisis for the past 11 years, a group of professors from the University of Puerto Rico — Mayagüez Campus recently published the “Essays for a New Economy: Puerto Rico’s Economic Development.”
The collection brings together professors from the departments of Economics, Agricultural Economics, and Hispanic Studies of the UPR-Mayagüez as well as collaborations with researchers from other institutions, under the coordination of Ricardo Fuentes-Ramírez, of the Economics Department.
According to the publisher, the proposal is to offer options to looming service and job reductions that would remedy the island’s non-economic situation.
“It is a relevant issue as it would appear that there is no alternative to simply cutting everything, when all the evidence around the world shows that when this is done in periods of crisis, the situation worsens,” Fuentes-Ramírez said.
“For me, it was very important to start that discussion, that when investing in health and education during the crisis, it helps to overcome it,” he said.
The initiative began to take shape since the professor joined the faculty in August 2015 with the purpose of analyzing the economic situation from the perspective of agriculture, gender inequality and political status.
“In particular, we talked with the professors of agricultural economics to emphasize the issue of the importance of agriculture, not only for its role in food security, but as a development strategy,” he said.
“Also, we collaborated with Dr. Elsa R. Arroyo, Department of Hispanic Studies, to address the issue of gender,” he said, referring to the article they drafted together and which states that “Puerto Rico is not only an underdeveloped economy but patriarchal, where women routinely are the main victims of all inequalities and social problems we have in our economic system.”
Similarly, the publication stands out for its interdisciplinary aspect, said Edwin Irizarry-Mora, one of the essayists.
“We have not focused solely on the fiscal financial crisis the government of Puerto Rico is facing. It’s a virtue of this book. It has a number of sections or chapters in which we touched on topics as varied as the current situation in the planning and development of our economy issues,” he said.
Irizarry-Mora stressed the need to establish a public policy that supports local entrepreneuts, without leaving out any of the sectors.
“Tourism has much to contribute here, agribusiness too, as well as the cooperative sector, which has about $9 billion to contribute to our economy and has more than one million members, and moreover, it left out the leadership of farmers, local entrepreneurs in manufacturing, trade; I think it’s time to change the paradigm of the economic model in Puerto Rico,” he said.
He added that there is no precedent in the Puerto Rican economy about such a prolonged recession representing almost 18 percent in losses.
“The reduction in the size of government exacerbates the recession being experienced by our economy. To stimulate the economic system, we have to inject funds through the leadership of the different sectors of government, including local entrepreneurs,” Irizarry-Mora said.
“These policies have been consistently enthroned in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, what they have done is to reduce the government ‘s contribution and that is tragic,” he said.
“It is because it will lead to a deepening of the recession in which we are. No one should have the slightest doubt that if the Oversight Board launches what it has been proposing so far, we will be in recession for several more years,” he said.
The group plans to deliver copies of the book to members of the Oversight Board and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, so they can analyze the proposals.
On the other hand, Alfredo González-Martínez, retired economics professor, said the book offers several readings that respond to the variety of subjects that work and fulfill its didactic purpose.
“In one of the readings, the analysis has been framed within a socialist theory of evolution. Another focuses on the theory of secular stagnation,” he said.
“Proposals for effective planning also address agriculture, and transportation, gender equality in the development process, in the administration of water resources, and institutional reshaping of international trade between Puerto Rico and the rest of world,” said the also founder of the Department of Economics at the UPR-Mayagüez.
González-Martínez added that the anthology addresses in a novel way the issue of status and its link to the economy.
In addition to Fuentes, Irizarry, and González, the list of co-authors also includes: José I. Alameda-Lozada, Gladys González, Alexandra Gregory-Crespo, Carlos A. Del Valle-González, Elsa R. Arroyo-Vázquez, Ivonne C. Diaz-Rodríguez, Juan Villeta-Trigo, Jeffry Valentín-Mari, Eduardo Kicinski-Martin, Francisco A. Catalá and Carlos A. Frontera-Santana.
The book was published by Ediciones Callejón and is available at the UPR-Mayagüez’s Librería Colegial bookstore.