"If Puerto Rico were independent from the United States, it would be a catastrophe," assures Chilean economist

Axel Kaiser explained that the island is the U.S. jurisdiction with the lowest level of economic freedom.

According to Chilean economist Axel Kaiser, stopping blaming others and reducing government spending are the keys to getting out of the stagnation. Photos by Nahira Montcourt.

If Puerto Rico wants to generate wealth, stop migration and have people earn better wages, it has to solve its problem of lack of economic freedom, said Chilean economist Axel Kaiser.

Kaiser is visiting the island for the second time and yesterday gave a presentation on how to overcome poverty at the Retail Trade Association (Acdet) convention.

His first trip to the island was in 2016, and then, according to him, Puerto Ricans were talking about the same thing they are today: how to get the economy moving.

"The reasons why our countries fail is not because the big countries abuse or extract our wealth. We blame others, but not ourselves," said the lawyer and president of the think tank Fundación para el Progreso.

Therefore, the solution to get out of the stagnation and start generating wealth, in his opinion, is relatively simple: stop blaming others and get people and countries -including Puerto Rico- to focus on working and earning money.

"We have everything to be richer than Europeans, but we are poor. In Latin America, we cultivate the mentality of failure. What defines whether a person fails or succeeds is the attitude towards life," Kaiser told the audience of businessmen and employees from the commercial sector.

Innovation and human ingenuity

He pointed out that innovation and human ingenuity is what has allowed nations to progress, and that life expectancy and wealth expectancy are higher today than in the 1800s. And as people have come to perceive that it is not frowned upon to work, that it is good to earn money and that economic freedom allows for greater progress, countries have made progress.

The economist showed graphs from the Fraser Institute in Canada that indicate that the countries with the greatest economic freedom are the richest on the planet and are the ones that show the greatest progress for their population. Among them he mentioned Denmark, Australia, Switzerland, Hong Kong and the United States.

Kaiser is openly against the speeches that advocate equality and stated that "if we care about the poor, we must give them economic freedom. It is not the same to be poor in Switzerland as in Venezuela".

He added that the per capita income of the poorest 10% of the poor in rich countries is eight times higher than that of the poor in countries with less economic freedom.

Although there are not many statistics comparing Puerto Rico with the rest of the countries in the world, the economist indicated that the Fraser Institute compared the 50 states and Puerto Rico in terms of their level of economic freedom. Puerto Rico was ranked 51st, that is, the jurisdiction with the lowest level of economic freedom, with 2.6, and very distant from the rest. New York is another state with little economic freedom, while Florida is one of the states with the most economic freedom.

To increase the level of economic freedom, Puerto Rico needs, according to Kaiser, to decrease government spending, reduce taxes, and lower or eliminate many regulations.

"Puerto Rico can be among the 10 states with more economic freedom, increase per capita income, wages and job opportunities, while decreasing migration and becoming a rich country," said the speaker.

In a message that was intermingled at times with the political theme, the lawyer asserted that "if Puerto Rico did not have the dollar as its currency, it would be no better than Argentina," in allusion to the fiscal and economic crisis that the South American country has faced in recent decades.

"Forgive me for saying so, according to the data, if Puerto Rico were independent from the United States, it would be a catastrophe. That's what the data say; what I say may sound harsh, but I read the data and things are really bad," he emphasized.

This article was originally published in Spanish by El Nuevo Dia.

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