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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Senator urges creation of panel to study island’s declining population

By The Star Staff

At-large Sen. Keren Riquelme Cabrera urged the Senate leadership Sunday to address the decline in births in Puerto Rico by approving Senate Resolution (SR) 772, which would create the Senate Special Commission on Initiatives to Mitigate the Demographic Decline on the Island.

“If we continue on this path, more educational institutions, both public and private, at all levels, including universities, will soon disappear,” Riquelme said. “There will be labor shortages in many sectors, and eventually, the tax burden on everyone will be greater due to the lack of viable people. Likewise, the situation of our older adults will worsen if there are no caregivers for them. This is a serious problem that needs serious solutions.”

SR 772, co-authored by Riquelme, of the New Progressive Party, and Popular Democratic Party Sen. Albert Torres Berrios, was introduced on April 19, 2023, and has been in the Senate Internal Affairs Committee since then.

Riquelme said the proposed special commission would address measures and initiatives related to demographic issues, and would develop concrete and viable proposals to address the problem.

“The Legislature has created special commissions before to address specific issues and then, due to their nature, they become permanent joint commissions between the Senate and the House of Representatives, as is the case of the Joint Commission for the Review and Reform of the Civil Code of Puerto Rico, among many others. This commission that we have proposed has a function that exceeds the four-year period, which is why it must be evaluated,” Riquelme said. “We call on the Senate leadership to take a firm and consistent step by approving this legislation whose primary purpose is to address the demographic reality of Puerto Rico, which impacts all sectors of society.”

“Not talking about the issue does not make the problem go away; on the contrary, it increases it,” the senator added. “There is a reality in Puerto Rico: we have the second lowest birth rate in the world (0.90 per 1,000); essentially, around 18,000 babies are born every year, while deaths exceed 32,000. The government took action, including the administrator of the Administration for Care and Comprehensive Development of Children, Roberto Pagán, who detailed in his work plan a study on births, the demographics of the island, and solutions in the short and long term. It is time for the Legislature to fully insert itself into this discussion.”

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