(San Juan, Puerto Rico) Representatives of Puerto Rico’s Private Sector Coalition (the Coalition) who have been working together in the restructuring of the Island’s government and other core issues in Washington, reacted to the July 17 letter sent to the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Jacob J. Lew, by the US Senate Finance Commission President, Mr. Orrin G. Hatch.
“We totally agree with Senator Hatch’s recommendation of a Chapter 9 mechanism for the restructuring of the debt and the urgency he has given to the matter” was the collective comment by the leaders of entities such as the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association, the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, the Puerto Rico Society of CPAs, the Puerto Rico Products Association and the Puerto Rico Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution Chamber, among others.
Several months ago, when our Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, presented his comments on the HR 870 proposal to amend the Federal Bankruptcy Code so that Puerto Rico could file for Chapter 9, we supported him; and today we reiterate such support. We are pleased to finally see GOP representatives having an open disposition to support this initiative, especially from Mr. Hatch, whose Commission will eventually evaluate the proposal.
We also agree on reviewing the cabotage laws (Jones Act) that apply to Puerto Rico, since these increase the price of imported goods in the Island. Needless to say, we also claim for justice and equality in the Medicare Advantage funds distribution, since this unfair treatment has a very negative effect on our Health sector, which consequently reflects in our economy.
In his letter, Mr. Hatch also acknowledges the need for structural reforms on the Island, geared towards reducing and controlling Government expenses, plus reforming the permits policies, as well as those regarding labor laws. The labor reforms needed will have to cover both local and federal laws, including the welfare system and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA).
A united private sector, has discussed the solutions to our problems in various forums and now has begun serious conversations with the Government in order to deal with the critical matters that affect our competitiveness and our economic development, present and future. We have the vision and the resources to transform this current situation. It is crucial to work together—private, civil and public sectors—towards the same goals and in the same direction.
Recently, our Coalition identified four (4) initiatives that need to be dealt with thoroughly and jointly with any Government initiatives regarding the negotiations of our debt and the restructuring of the Government, which could have immediate positive consequences on our economy:
1. To integrate the private sector to the Fiscal Control Board;
2. To carry out a labor reform;
3. To review the permits procedures and regulations in order to operate businesses;
4. To create an Economic Development Board, with a 10 year tenure, to evaluate all possible measures that encourage growth and development of the commercial sectors, while also removing all hindrances to our economic development.
Our team has already identified experts in such areas and we are working on every one of our proposals. We are waiting for a call from the Governor or his aides to meet and start working on an integrated, realistic and assertive plan. Puerto Rico is certainly going through an emergency situation that has to be dealt with in an urgent manner.
In relation to the Controlled Foreign Corporations (CFCs), the PR Manufacturers Association has engaged in an education and lobbying process in Congress to prevent or minimize the impact of any federal tax reform measure affecting the operation of multinational enterprises established on the Island during the past year. This effort has been supported by all sectors, as expressed in a 2013 MOU by leaders of twenty private organizations that are part of the Coalition, the Governor, the Resident Commissioner and the presidents of both, the PR Senate and the House of Representatives.
Puerto Rico’s capacity to remain competitive on an international basis will depend, among other things, on how Congress treats these companies under the proposed reforms to the Federal Tax Code. On that direction, we have attained support from several Hispanic Chambers of Commerce in the USA, as well as the influential National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
Just as we have effectively joined efforts concerning the CFCs, we expect to integrate our US partners to join us in our effort to make filing for Chapter 9 feasible for Puerto Rico, and to achieve the aforementioned structural reforms, both local and federal. The Private Sector Coalition has the commitment to work hard for a consensus in all sectors geared towards the benefit of the 3.6 million US Citizens residing on the Island.
These are the entities that comprise the Coalition: Puerto Rico Farmers Association; Puerto Rico Lessors Association; Puerto Rico Bankers Association; Puerto Rico Retail Commerce Association; Puerto Rico Insurance Companies Association; Home Builders Associations; AGC, Puerto Rico Chapter; Puerto Rico Car Dealers Association; Puerto Rico Hospitals Associations; Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association; Puerto Rico Shippers Association; Puerto Rico Products Association; Puerto Rico Restaurants Association; Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce; Puerto Rico Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution; Puerto Rico College of Architects and Landscape Architects; Puerto Rico Society of CPAs; Puerto Rico Engineers and Surveyors Association; Automobile Import United Group; Puerto Rico Internet Society; and PR 3000.