Social Inequality Holds Back Puerto Rico’s Economic Development


For more than 15 years, the island has been in an economic crisis that has been exacerbated by social inequalities and events such as hurricanes, earthquakes and a pandemic that have slowed down economic development, economists explained at the Association’s annual meeting of economists. Puerto Rico (AEPR).

According to data provided by Eileen Segarra, Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, the island is among the most unequal countries in the world, with levels of inequality approaching levels of the 1970s and 1980s. .

“In terms of inequality, we are considered one of the most unequal countries in the world,” Segarra said. “We have a capture of the state by some elites who are not really interested in economic development for everyone, but in developing their own pockets, and I think this is becoming more and more obvious. The result has been high inequality,” he said.

The economist is concerned about the fact that in Puerto Rico 40.5% of the population lives in poverty, and 55% of those under the age of 18 live in poverty.

Segarra stressed that one of the problems is that the state is oriented towards economic growth rather than economic development, so he proposes that development policies be carried out by the communities.

“It should be for everyone, especially those groups that have been left behind in our growth processes. To achieve different results, you need to do something differently. I understand that we need to start flipping the pyramid in terms of policy making and decision making in Puerto Rico. Hence the need to launch the process of economic development going from the bottom up,” he explained.

For economist Santos Negron, economic development is defined by improving the quality of life, increasing community participation in decision-making, and improving non-economic aspects such as freedom of expression, social justice, and economic development.

Negron stressed that in Puerto Rico, the economic problems faced in 2006 still persist, and he understands that they are now exacerbated by uncertain short and long term prospects.

“If we’re going to compare this to 2006, we’re getting worse and worse,” Negron said.

“There remains the will to change, strength, but indebtedness, wear and tear, the collapse of the industrial base, the flight of the population – all these components conspired with our ability to get out of this colonial pit,” he continued.

The Economist pointed out that Puerto Rico needs more political power to achieve effective development.

For his part, the outgoing president of the Association of Economists, José Luis Rivera, emphasized the importance of highlighting growth that reflects increases in numbers and percentages, and does not take into account other socio-economic variables taken into account in development, such as social inequality. , poverty, access to employment and family composition.

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