Guest blog post by Rick Wade, senior adviser to Secretary Locke, deputy chief of staff, and member of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status
Today the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status submitted a report to President Obama and Congress that provides recommendations for addressing Puerto Rico’s political status and economic climate. The report identifies specific proposals for boosting economic development, building competitive industries, and improving the quality of life for the people of Vieques – a Puerto Rican island-municipality in the northeastern Caribbean.
These recommendations, along with plans for their implementation, follow two public hearings held in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., as well as meetings with island officials and other stakeholders to gather input directly from a broad cross section of voices on the issues of Puerto Rico’s status and economic development.
The report underlines the fact that Puerto Rico’s political status continues to be of great importance to its people. Its economy – like many others – has also faced significant challenges in recent years, driving the need for a greater focus on economic progress in the U.S. territory. Per capita income in Puerto Rico remains at less than one-third of that in the United States, due in part to its low employment rate and persistently low rate of labor force participation.
The U.S. Department of Commerce will be intensely involved in implementing the recommendations of the Task Force’s report. Six of the department’s 12 bureaus will lead projects in support of economic growth in Puerto Rico. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will help develop an interagency team that works to connect Puerto Ricans to broadband Internet. The International Trade Administration’s U.S. Export Assistance Center in San Juan will help Puerto Rico increase its exports. And the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis will help Puerto Rico update its methodology for calculating gross domestic product so it aligns with U.S. standards and better captures economic conditions there.
As implementation of the report’s recommendations move forward, the Task Force will convene at least two additional summits in Puerto Rico over the next year and continue to engage with senior officials in both the United States and Puerto Rico to ensure the territory’s future prosperity.
First created by President Clinton in 2000, the Task Force originally focused solely on examining proposals for the island’s future status and instituting a process by which the people of Puerto Rico could chose a status option. In October of 2009, President Obama expanded the Task Force’s focus to include an economic assessment of conditions in Puerto Rico and plans for advancing its economy.
Read the Report by the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status (15MB PDF). En Espanol (16MB PDF).