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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Study of free market principles finds widespread belief that favoritism rules in PR

But nearly all respondents value individual merit as a priority in professional advancement

A key takeaway from the report is that although respondents generally prioritize individual merit to move ahead professionally, they perceive that in Puerto Rico people’s actions are limited by a culture of favoritism.

By The Star Staff

The Institute of Economic Liberty (ILE) has published the results of an investigation of knowledge of free market principles and affinity with them in Puerto Rico.

The report, called “The Free Market in Puerto Rico 2022,” found that participants broadly support the free-market system. For example, 99.6% of respondents said they should be free to make decisions in pursuit of their well being, and 97% believe they should be able to earn a living honestly in whatever they wish, without obstacles from the government.

One striking result is that 61% of the respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the Spanish saying “It is not what you know but who you know,” which in Spanish is “El que no tiene padrino, no se bautiza.” The result suggests that although respondents generally prioritize individual merit to move ahead professionally, they perceive that in Puerto Rico, people’s actions are limited by a culture of favoritism.

The study covered the four main pillars of the free market: “Individual liberty,” “Rule of law,” “Private property rights,” and “Limited government,” and topics such as “current situation of Puerto Rico,” “social welfare,” and “meritocracy,” among others.

In assessing their economic status, 88% of the participants responded that Puerto Rico’s financial situation is bad or very bad. Moreover, 92% believe that the direction of the island’s economy is bad or very bad. Those results indicate that most people in the sample negatively perceive the local economy, although about half of them do not feel personally at risk.

Ángel Carrión Tavárez, the director of research and public policy at ILE, Dr. Luz N. Fernández López, a researcher at ILE, and Dr. Juan Lara, an economist and professor at the University of Puerto Rico, prepared the report made public Wednesday.

Carrión Tavárez and Fernández López designed the study and the construction and administration of the questionnaire, which consisted of sociodemographic data of the participants and 25 multiple-choice questions or statements.

Those who answered the questionnaire believe in individual responsibility and self-effort to satisfy desires and achieve personal aspirations.

“From the perspective of a change from the welfare model to one of economic mobility in Puerto Rico, it is significant that 98% of those surveyed say they are capable of and responsible for achieving their goals and 93% affirmed they prefer to make a living by working,” Carrión Tavárez said.

Most respondents said social welfare programs are ineffective and require modification. More than 80% of the sample disagrees with the idea that such programs are designed to lift people out of poverty, and three-quarters of respondents said the programs only meet the basic needs of people while they are poor. In addition, two-thirds disagree with the idea that social welfare programs allow people to stand on their own two feet and start over.

About 81% of respondents said the free market contributes to more employment, less poverty, and a better quality of life; however, 58% answered that the government has the most significant weight in the economy of Puerto Rico at present.

“This important result reveals that the sample perceives a lack of alignment between the value aspirations and the prevailing reality, regarding economic liberty and the free market,” Carrión Tavárez said.

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