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Creating Prosperity for the Future Puerto Rico Published: Sunday, December 7, 2008 By: Dr. Manuel Angel (Coco) Morales

Prosperity is the capacity of an individual, group, sector or nation to provide shelter, nutrition, and other material goods that enable to live a quality life, according to their own definition. Prosperity helps to create a space in people’s hearts and minds so that they may develop healthy emotional and spiritual life following their preferences, unfettered by the everyday concerns of the material goods they require to survive.

Researchers stress that prosperity is both a flow and stock: a flow of income as the ability of people to purchase a set of goods, or capture value created by someone else (purchasing power); the enabling environment that improves productivity (a set of stocks). We can readily identify some kinds of stock or capital, which are:

1. Natural endowments, such as location, land assets, forests, beaches and climate.
2. Financial resources, such as savings and capital reserves
3. Infrastructure such as buildings, roads, technologies and telecommunications assets.
4. Institutional capital such as legal protections of tangible and intangible property, efficient government organizations, and enterprises that maximize value to shareholders, and compensate and educate employees and professionals.
5. Research and knowledge resources, such as think tanks, universities and international patents.
6. Human capital, which represents competencies, skills, abilities, insights and capabilities.
7. Culture capital, pointing toward the explicit articulations of culture like music, language, and ritualistic traditions, and attitudes and values that couple localism and cosmopolitan mindset, and readiness for innovation.

Thus, prosperity is a flow of per capita income, but the society that wishes to collectively embrace these conceptualizations should consider a broader system and the decisions for investment in an enriched and enabling high productive environment.

Nobel laurete Amartya Sen elaborates the idea that the advantage of the stock view while addressing the challenge of prosperity is to establish a better condition for the society’s ability to produce things for the future. (The Wealth of Nations in the Twentieth Century).

In Puerto Rico we need to confront a blatant fact that has persisted across decades of social history and that is the poverty phenomenon and the low labor participation ratios.

There is an empirical connection between poverty and unemployment and cognitive capacity, and emotional mental health and well-being of the people.  Poverty, unemployment and low labor participation destroy dreams, aspirations, hope, joy and happiness.  There are many pieces of research that support the correlation between good incomes and productive attitudes toward authority, tolerance of others, and supports of democracy and civil liberties, openness toward foreigners, positive labor and work relationships, self-esteem, sense of personal competence, the disposition to voluntarily participate in community and societal affairs, interpersonal and social trust, and satisfaction with one’s own life.

The classical research of Ronald Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic, and Political Change in Forty Three Societies, validates that higher rate of self-reporting of both objective and subjective well-being correlate with higher levels of national prosperity.

In Puerto Rico we have to start creating a belief system about our prosperity for the future.  The work of outstanding researchers, Fairbanks and Lindsay, shares several design principles related to the urgency of working on a culture of development and prosperity.  These are: Developing mental maps of how the world works; Developing beliefs and attitudes that are pro-creativity and pro-innovation as a road to prosperity; Developing mental models that can be defined, informed and deployed around a well-defined national vision-purpose and economic and social goals (Nobel laurete Douglas North suggests that human beings mental models and institutions are needed to shape the performance of their economies.  These are two key variables; MENTAL MODELS and INSTITUTIONS); Mental models can be changed.

Finally, across the world there is an increasingly general convergence of competitiveness and prosperity actions and beliefs systems, moving countries to utilization of modes of production based on high technology and applied science, creating a new kind of bio-technology reality.  The new productive arrangements or designs press for the creation of new roles for the individual.  The progression here is from lifetime employment, legal employment, free-lance work to expert spot high-tech professional.  Also moving from time duration of decades to years, month, days and hours. 

This all point to the elements of a change process.  The steps are the following:   1) If any, decode the current strategy for prosperity. 2) Create a real sense of urgency. 3) Understand the range of strategic choices and inform them with analyses. 4) Create a compelling vision-purpose for the country.  5) Create new networks of diverse and pluralistic relationships. 6) Communicate the vision.  7) Build productive alliances. 8) Develop and communicate short-term wins. 9) Institutionalize the changes. 10) Evaluated and affirm the changes.

The strategy for prosperity should relate the past with the future, be clear and heavily shared, be informed with research and analyses, be based on integrated multi-sectorial choices and policies, and help the people become what they want to be. 

 


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