• The Star Staff

Eduardo Bhatia bets on sustainability and creativity

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

A clean and honest government, investment in creative industries, a circular economy and building up women as the driving force for social mobility are some of the goals for a sustainable economy that Popular Democratic Party gubernatorial hopeful Eduardo Bhatia presented from his political agenda on Tuesday at the party’s headquarter in Puerta de Tierra.

During a press conference, Bhatia said Puerto Rico’s direction should be toward building a country that is focused more on production than consumption. In other words, he proposed that the local government must develop projects that create job opportunities and open doors for new ideas.

“We have generated a set of ideas to promote Puerto Rico’s sustainable development. Our main focus for economic development has to be simple,” Bhatia said. “The best government program is to create jobs. The best help from Puerto Rico’s government is not a check, it is employment growth; having a job is fundamental.”

The senator added that in order to build a land that can witness growth, it must be acknowledged that Puerto Rico is a jurisdiction with high rates of corruption. Likewise, he said there should be no tolerance for it.

“We must free ourselves from the chains of dependence, we must bridge the inequality gap. It is important for Puerto Rico,” Bhatia said. “There will not be any economic development in Puerto Rico if there is no investment. There will be no investment if corruption remains. Even federal funds have been detained due to corruption.”

The first point of Bhatia’s agenda is to build a “clean and honest” government, allowing zero impunity when it comes to corruption, guaranteeing digital transparency for public bids and providing access to public information. Another focus of his agenda was cooperativism, which he refers to as building cooperative enterprises such as hardware stores, laboratories, local pharmacies and department stores that can compete against international corporations. He also aimed to give the Cooperative Development and Investment Fund back to the community.

“This following point is a priority for what my government program proposes; cooperativism plays a fundamental role,” Bhatia said. “The local government must be dominated by cooperatives.”

Meanwhile, his government program also bets on women as the engine for social mobility. On this matter, Isabel Fernández, an entrepreneur and Bhatia’s wife, noted that the local government must provide for and invest in women to not only build the local economy, but also to build society as a whole.

“When we talk about economic development, we cannot think about a limited view of common or foreign investments. When we conducted a real-time survey of Puerto Rico, we noticed that women who are the heads of their households live under poverty,” Fernández said. “We noticed that women can be the driving force for social mobility. We cannot pretend to have a future or prosper if there are no chances for current and future generations.”

Regarding this matter, they want to build 20 pilot programs in 20 municipalities to help women finish high school, provide workshops and develop start-ups for microbusinesses and small businesses. Likewise, Bhatia proposes to provide easy access to the internet.

Meanwhile, Bhatia revealed that he wants to fund the “Orange Economy,” which is focused on investing in creative outlets and artistic professions. He considers it one of the defining ideas of his candidacy.

“Puerto Rico must have more creative people,” he said. “More artists, more people involved in culture, more performers. We must have more [creative talents] by the square mile, more than any other country.”

Other ideas on Bhatia’s agenda were:

· Promote a circular and low-waste economy

· Strengthen small and midsize businesses

· Bring back pharmaceutical manufacturing

· Modernize essential services, such as power, water and internet

· Build federal resource offices

· Finance small agriculture businesses, hostel providers, short-term rental owners and small healthcare providers

· Promote a reliable public education system.