Puerto Rico’s Economy
Puerto Rico’s Economy
By Mariam Ludim Rosa Vélez
Translated by Tia Gilson
UPRM Press

Friday, May 22nd, 2009                           [ versión español ]

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel of financial crisis? How can the different sectors contribute? Is there really a solution? These topics were discussed during the forum Puerto Rico’s Economic Situation: Perspectives and Alternatives, which recently took place at the Nursing Amphitheatre of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM).

William Lockwood, executive vice president of the Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico; David Chafey, president of Banco Popular de Puerto Rico (Popular Bank); doctor Francisco Catalá, economist and retired professor of University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras; and Mildred Santiago, executive director of the Liga de Cooperativas de Puerto Rico (League of Cooperatives) participated in the forum, which was organized by the UPRM Department of Economy.

“With these four presentations we gather the views of each sector that acts as a protagonist in this process. In this sense, we are doing a service for the university community,” explained doctor Edwin Irizarry Mora, Economy professor and one of the coordinators of this educational event.

Irizarry Mora spoke of the important role that the University plays in the discussion of the events that affect the country since, as he commented, it’s about “a zone of free thinking” and an ideal place to exchange ideas.

Lockwood agreed that it’s “a neutral space of creativity and confidence for all speakers.” He added that it’s also an opportunity to “explain to the youth the matters behind making very difficult decisions at this point in time and the hope that these times of pressure are periods of innovation to reconstruct the processes, institutions and economic models of Puerto Rico.”

Perspectives and Alternatives

In the judgment of economist Catalá, the actual crisis represents “the first hard challenge, in economic terms, that the Country faces,” since the depression of the 1930’s. “We haven’t forgotten that for the last few decades the economy has been stagnant and in recession, technically speaking, since 2006. The title of the forum is precisely perspectives and alternatives. The perspectives are dark and the alternatives are few,” stated the professor.

The Executive Director of the Liga de Cooperativas de Puerto Rico spoke about the role of cooperative movement as an alternative model of economic development for the Island.

“In a time of crisis, cooperation is ideal, it’s a philosophy, a life practice that is based in human beings ability to identify a necessity and resolve it. During these times of necessity and crisis there isn’t a better mechanism than citizens organizing within a model that has its basis in ethics, democracy and practicing the participation that believes that first are human beings and their abilities,” said Santiago.

Meanwhile, Lockwood spoke on how the central government’s deficit came about and the measures that they are taking to tackle the situation. “The first measures appear to be the most painful, but they are essential for stabilizing Puerto Rico’s finances…We have a generational period of transition, of economic models, which represent an opportunity to remake Puerto Rico in collaboration with different sectors of society.”

Chafey gave a panorama of how the bank has been affected due to the actual crisis. In the banker’s judgment, private enterprises also will have to make their adjustments to contribute to stabilizing the Country’s finances.

At the beginning of the forum, the UPRM chancellor, doctor Jorge Iván Vélez Arocho, gave the welcoming speech to speakers and participants. Doctors Moisés Orengo Avilés, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Leslie Wallace, director of the Department of Economy; and Leandro Colón, also collaborated in the coordination of this activity.


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From the left: Mildred Santiago, William Lockwood, David Chafey and Francisco Catalá.
From the left: Mildred Santiago, William Lockwood, David Chafey and Francisco Catalá.

Doctor Olben Delgado Méndez with members of the UPRM Student Association of Economy.
Doctor Olben Delgado Méndez with members of the UPRM Student Association of Economy.

The forum took place in the Nursing Amphitheatre.
The forum took place in the Nursing Amphitheatre.

Photographs by Carlos Díaz / UPRM Press