A workgroup comprising public and private sector representatives handed Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla a report containing 34 recommendations Sunday to tackle Puerto Rico’s low labor participation rate, brain drain, the aging population and the underground economy.
The group, constituted Mar. 7 as “Puerto Rico Transforms: Action group for Puerto Rico’s competitiveness and growth,” had the mission to present recommendations based on existing studies and citizen proposals. The group participated in about 40 hours worth of meetings.
Among its suggestions, the group proposed increasing local production, developing enterprises and substituting imports as the foundation to promote sustainable economic development.
The group identified as areas of greatest potential in the short and medium term the development of crops for local consumption and others that may be produced with high added value for export, renewable energy as a source of innovation and local manufacturing, creative industries and those with innovation potential to drive exports, and the so-called “visitor economy.”
To development these initiatives, the group — integrated by about 20 citizens from different sectors of society and three government representatives — proposes that public policy incentives exemptions and other ways to stimulate the economy be re-directed to promote activity that spurs local production.
The group also urged the government to lead a coordinated effort to ask the federal government for:
- Exemption from cabotage laws;
- A Congressional study on the effects that applying the interstate commerce clause has on the island’s economic development;
- that Puerto Rico may sign trade agreements with other countries and belong to international organizations;
- And gain flexibility in federal financial aid programs to promote local employment and productivity.
Meanwhile, the group also recommended establishing requirements and conditions on big-box and multi-national retailers, including requiring them to reinvest a percentage of their profits in Puerto Rico, as well as hire local contractors, and full-time employees, to which they should provide benefits.
On the other hand, they proposed that the government develop and implement public policy that will redefine how the state will allocate subsidies and exemptions for certain companies, with the ultimate goal of protecting local businesses by “creating an environment of healthy and fair competition.”
That public policy should give priority to small and mid-sized businesses, and should be coupled with plans to establish mechanisms to accelerate the growth of local companies, placing special attention on businesses that can create full-time jobs with competitive benefits, they said.
As part of its task, the group evaluated 156 citizen proposals received via mesadeaccion.pr.gov.
The governor is expected to integrate the recommendations into his State of the Commonwealth address, to be offered at a yet-to-be-established date.