To Know And to Not Act is to Not Know

| January 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

There are so many problems in Puerto Rico, that at times it’s difficult to see where one would start. And I’m not saying I have all the answers, but at least I’d be willing to ponder longer on the problems and come up with some solutions without the need of turning a discussion with anybody into a personal argument. The current level of public “debate” is part of the problem.

1. Politics: Politics as a business or career makes it hard for elected officials to do what’s right, when the measures are not popular and they end up wasting their time justifying their existence with activism or based on what they think people want to hear so they re-elect them. As I just recently read, legislators in Puerto Rico, are dealing with new rules around gift cards – while the country is close to a monumental erruption. That’s just one example.

Why can’t all those politicians focus on

1. how to cut spending drastically (Ireland did so 6x faster than PR and is back on investment grade) –

2. how to become more efficient in the administration (getting rid of rules and permits that hinder and make no sense, immediately!)?
I still can’t believe that in the free world, I walk into a Walgreens Sunday morning to buy bread and I can’t because many areas are closed and they cannot sell me anything I need at that moment, causing me to drive another 5mins to buy somewhere else. Does really anybody think this is beneficial? Every time this happens to me, I hear other clients complaining. But nobody revolts, everybody just says “that’s how it is, you can’t change it” – why?

3. how to do real Business Development? For me, naturally, because I’m German by birth, why not suck the corporate teet of Germany? Economy is booming there and we have identified already almost 500 Mittlestand companies for which it makes sense to come here and who wouldn’t have a problem with the investment (from cash-flow!). NOBODY there knows Puerto Rico even exists (exaggerating, but…) – not as a vacation destination (while thousands and thousands of Germans fly to Miami, Cuba and DomRep every year) and not as a business destination, as prototyping platform for market entry to both the USA and Latin America.
As things are, and mainly driven by my personal need for safety and nice surroundings (and that things just work, basically), the opportunity will probably go past Puerto Rico because it’ll be safer to locate the venture in Miami.

4. not more taxes but less and get over the junk-rating, the sooner the better. Everybody knows and agrees that the downgrade to junk is going to come. So be it then, let it be now and get it over with, but take the right measures, which are not increasing taxes on a decreasing base of tax payers and thus strangle the little that is left of the economy. I would even consider to forget about the income tax completely and have a 20% consumption tax (VAT) on everything and with that capture what tourists, drug money and money earned in the grey areas buys for the people. That could be more money than the current budget of Puerto Rico. Especially if combined with an effective implementation and monitoring. And with I mean NOT armed teams of controllers. A friend told me that his little shop was controlled a while ago by team walking in with long arms (rifles); a shop where mostly students work. What sort of idiot has an idea like that?

5. make yourselves disposable… as long as I can think, my personal idea of my role in any venture is to be there as long as I’m needed or when there is crisis. Imagine a politician who would take over his duties with that attitude. Do the right thing and disappear. Not only would you save a lot of time and (not yours but the taxpayer’s) money by not having to explain what you are doing and looking busy. But you could just focus on something you maybe understand well or have an idea worth exploring for and that’s it. You don’t even need a title for that.

Lastly, it might be a very good idea, to separate administration from elected politicians even more and just make it not that attractive to actually be a politician. Set the salaries and benefits low for public servants and attract a different crowd. Make it possible to do it part-time, why not? The times where “the people” needed full-time political representation are gone. We need a functioning administration, that’s all.

In that respect, why not start a parallel entity, like any entrepreneur would. There is this huge monster “Government apparatus” that seems difficult to control, especially if you don’t want to let people go. So why not take special areas and incorporate new entities that have to be or become self-sufficient and effective. For a while, that could run parallel to the existing government department and then that old department gets dissolved, as humanly as possible.
Why not have a second, new “Puerto Rico New Energy Corp” with apolitical officers, transparent reporting systems, that uses what it needs from the old AEE (lines for example) and gets enable to sell electricity.
Why not have a new “Puerto Rico All-Things-Business Corp” where a real one-stop-shop for permits, even only online, is enabled by giving that corporation all rights and access to existing systems and the power to demand information and access from anybody and finally not just talk about that one-stop-shop (which is around since I heard when first moving to PR in 2005)…

Why not… Exactly.

Almost everybody I talk to, and I dedicate a good portion of my time to talking to people, agrees that Puerto Rico needs drastic changes. But it seems, when it gets down to action, only things get done, that are politically somehow helpful at that moment – or are urgency-driven.

2. Media. The media has such an important function and in my humble opinion, in Puerto Rico is mainly focussed on ratings and selling their stuff. I know there are economic realities. But there is something greater – or should be. The amount of public-relations-reporting, completely senseless reporting about “celebrities and their latest fart” is simply neither healthy nor educative or stimulating. In other countries, there is a variety of media available, reporting in an orderly fashion, based on deep thought and real analysis that makes the reader actually wait for a new piece or issue of a magazine. A radio-station that needs to tell every listener countless times during the day that they are the best, makes me question or just turn it off. A TV-station that reports only about wannabe-singers or who made whom pregnant, simply doesn’t interest me. Which leads, for me, to not watching any TV nor buying the local newspapers or listening the radio stations. And you know what? It makes you happier. It gives you a different feel for life. And if you combine that lack of (silent or at least not that loud) analysis with the little time often parents have here for their children, it generates the kind of society that can currently be experienced in Puerto Rico. Where two adults with their children walk into a restaurant and all four of them sit mute at the table with their ipads or iphones or other devices right in front of them. Because the intellectual capability doesn’t get nurtured in any way anymore, the debate culture doesn’t exist or even only the ability to tell a story  – and with that people become numb and don’t care anymore. Or care, when it’s about seeing other people’s misery. The coverage of the human drama of that court case around the murder of a mother, I felt was disgusting. The media here have a responsibility to not provide such a crazy, all encompassing coverage. I’d wish for a more serious approach, with a lot less opinion and a lot more information. So that people can think and form their own opinions based on it by discussing and debating. That makes a person. And the sum of the individuals makes society.

3. Education. It is boring me out to hear that public schools in Puerto Rico don’t work and that’s why the educational system is shit. Even if it was the best educational system in the world, teachers are not making persons. PARENTS do. And while I agree that with a $4bn budget of the Dept. of Education in Puerto Rico there should be more to show, the education of a person starts at home. Be an example. Read to your kid, spend time with your kid, show him that you are there and speak with him or here – love your kid. That will contribute a million times more to the person he or she will be than any teacher.

I have many more thoughts but I need to go now. Just this: we, the people living here on this wonderful island, need to stop waiting for politics to fix something. We need to become active ourselves. Politics per se are broken, it needs to be replaced. For that, we, the ones who have this thought in the back of our head that not all is lost, we need to get together and learn how to do something from scratch again here and start over, creating a safe island, self-sufficient in nutrition, energy & money.

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Category: Current Affairs