CNE Review – December 2021

Published on December 16, 2021 / Leer en español

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2021 Growth Policy Summit

For Everything There is a Season

The past few years have been hard for all of us living in Puerto Rico. The debt and fiscal crisis; the government’s bankruptcy; the 2017 hurricanes; the earthquakes; and the suspended apocalypse of the COVID-19 pandemic have taken their physical and mental toll. We all are tired, some would even say exhausted. In moments like these, it is easy to fall into despair and despondency.

So, as the days become shorter and the nights slightly longer, as we take stock of the year that was and the one that will be, I think it is appropriate to remember that all things on Earth are temporary, all things have their time, “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to weep, and to laugh…a time to embrace, and to keep from embracing…a time to tear, and to sew…a time for war and a time for peace.” (Eccl. 3:1-8) In the words of Tish Harrison Warren, “love and loss are a double helix this side of heaven…you can’t have one without the other.”

I thought about the ancient words of Ecclesiastes as I listened to some of the speakers at our 2021 Growth Policy Summit. Yes, the time has been out of joint in Puerto Rico for a while now, but there is also reason to believe that not all is lost, that the season appears to be turning.

At the Summit, some 300 people gathered to listen to academics and policy practitioners who have thought deeply about economic development in Puerto Rico. Professor Francisco Catalá reminded us of what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to generating economic growth. A panel of university professors showed us that governments can learn, including our own, which managed to implement a surprisingly strong public health response to the pandemic. A philanthropist talked about funding data-driven initiatives to improve policymaking. Another panel of researchers highlighted the importance of education for economic growth and human development. And Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, highlighted some of the elements required to design a new economic growth policy for Puerto Rico and reminded us that growth can occur even in suboptimal environments. Click here to access the event’s proceedings.

We at CNE believe that now is the right time to start thinking about economic growth in Puerto Rico again, as the bankruptcy process ends and the hurricane reconstruction efforts gather strength. Yes, the tide may be finally turning in our favor, our time in the darkness coming to an end.

This does not mean, though, that all is well. We still have plenty of hard work ahead of us. But if we watch for the light in this time of lengthening shadows, we may perhaps see small sparks of hope scattered throughout the darkness, little glimmers of wisdom, love, charity, and courage that light the road ahead. Take time to notice these small daily moments of grace.

Because as the year draws to a close we do well to remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s distinction between “cheap grace”, which is automatically accessible to human beings, and “costly grace”, which requires hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. Perhaps we in Puerto Rico should be thankful for the opportunity to earn our costly graces. So, I invite you to take time to think about the many joys and reflections of this season and above all, as we move on to 2022, to watch for the light, because for everything there is a season.

Sergio M. Marxuach, Editor-in-Chief