Puerto Rico aims to torpedo deal it couldn’t win for itself

Public-private partnerships can have a dramatic economic impact when both sectors make real, shared commitments. During my time at the Department of Commerce directing the Economic Development Administration, the agency worked to establish innovative, forward-thinking alliances that created jobs and private capital investment.

The V.I.-Diageo deal is a case study on doing it right. It employs a well-established economic development program, the rum excise tax cover-over, to bring significant revenue to the V.I. and provide Diageo long-term stability and a sound business reason to stay in the U.S. Every single U.S. state uses similar tax, marketing and other incentives to attract private investment.

Puerto Rico had an exclusive first and unfettered opportunity to renegotiate and extend its supplier arrangement with Diageo. As your article points out, only after those commercial negotiations failed did Diageo announce that it would seek other production sites, including other countries.

Having failed in the commercial arena, Puerto Rico now seeks to achieve its ends politically. By working to lure Congress into blocking a commercial agreement that benefits the Virgin Islands and the country, and then entangling Workers United, a Service Employees International Union affiliate, Puerto Rico has shown it will inflict whatever damage is necessary to destroy a commercial agreement it couldn’t win for itself.

Takoma Park, Md.

Energy cornerstone

From Regina Hopper, president and CEO, America’s Natural Gas Alliance

Regarding Larry Nichols’s Dec. 7 op-ed, “Oil, natural gas industries can provide jobs boost,” I believe clean, abundant American natural gas will be the cornerstone of our economic and energy future. Due to new technologies, North America has enough clean natural gas to power America for generations to come. And since 98 percent of the natural gas used in America is produced in North America, natural gas use will bolster our nation’s energy security, reduce its carbon footprint and create thousands of jobs.

Already, nearly 3 million Americans work in jobs supported by the natural gas industry, according to IHS Global Insight. Moving forward, newfound abundant supplies of natural gas will create even more American jobs. In the Marcellus Shale alone, which stretches from Kentucky to New York, abundant resources of natural gas are expected to create 98,000 jobs in Pennsylvania by 2010, while generating $800 million in state and local tax revenues, according to a recent Penn State University study. Similarly, newfound natural gas supplies in the Barnett Shale in Texas are expected to add 1 million years of employment in the natural gas industry in Texas and $100 billion to the state’s economy through 2015, according to a March study released by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.


U.S.: general contractor

From Rebecca Webber

The job market is hot in Afghanistan, where a call for general contractors was issued. The project? Instituting a reliable government. The cost? Billions of American taxpayer dollars. The result? Casualties and low morale.

The raging debate over the troop surge neglects the notion that no influx of American troops can compensate for the lack of infrastructure in Afghanistan. Whether 30,000 or 60,000 soldiers were deployed, American forces cannot supplant the demand for an Afghani national military.

Moreover, national military success demands a passion to fight for a nation that fosters confidence and a government that inspires their trust. Current sentiments, at least as portrayed by the American media, defy this perception.

The United States has become a general contractor for democracy and stability, and recent results are shoddy at best. Tens of thousands of troops can hope to flush out insurgents, but it is not their responsibility to engage in nation-building. As American soldiers force the insurgents into Pakistan, no one will be counting the number of American servicemen chasing them. Just the number of dollars required to fill the void.

Greenwich, Conn.