Puerto Rico CofC reviews ’22 achievements, sets goals for ’23
Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (CofC) President Cameron McKenzie said that the year 2022 was one full of accomplishments and achievements, but also one filled with “work and lots of sacrifices.”
“The president-elect and I decided that we have to focus on everything related to economic development… We’re focusing on four pillars: energy and infrastructure, nutrition, health, and manufacturing,” McKenzie said in a virtual roundtable with reporters.
“We represent both small and large businesses and we focus on everything that’s [related with the island’s] economic development and that legislation that is passed is pro-businesses,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jose Julio Aparicio, who heads the entity’s Federal Affairs committee said the CofC Federal Affairs Chamber Educational Series (FACES) Program “was born” after a group of its members agreed that federal Congress is where the future of Puerto Rico is discussed.
“That includes our health, our energy, our education and our nutrition,” Aparicio assured.
To address these topics in Washington D.C., the CofC created the FACES program, with the goal of strengthening and expanding relationships, creating strategic alliances that allow the entity to demand funding parity, address the allocation of existing funds and ensure that Puerto Rico can participate in new federal programs and initiatives such as the transition of the Nutritional Assistance Program (NAP) to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid and Medicare programs, as well as issues related to the manufacturing sector in Puerto Rico.
FACES seeks to improve the quality of life for all Puerto Ricans, entrepreneurs, and citizens by advocating for better services, “address food insecurity, strengthen our manufacturing [sector] and defend the health of our senior citizens,” he said.
“During the past year, the FACES committee has made seven trips with very positive results and in 2023 we will continue to take this assertion to the federal capital,” Aparicio added.
He further noted that some of the other main challenges the island is facing is the Medicare/Medicaid funding crisis and new tax incentives for the manufacturing sector in Puerto Rico.
These issues represent 80% of all of Puerto Rico’s gross domestic product (GDP), he said.
He explained that after visiting federal Congress, the group of CofC members were able to achieve a temporary solution for the island’s Medicare/Medicaid programs.
Late last week, Congress passed legislation to fund the federal government that included up to five years of Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico, which receives the lowest per-capita federal Medicaid funding in the US and its territories. Congress funds Medicaid with capped, short-term funds.
Regarding renewable energy and telecommunications, the CofC also touched on these issues by establishing a relationship with US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, and with officials of the Federal Telecommunications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
Furthermore, the group of CofC leaders that participated in the virtual roundtable with local journalists highlighted the work that is being done with universities, as well as the “Emprende Tour” to help educate and connect with students interested in developing business careers.
Finally, the group agreed that 2023 will be a year of challenges and opportunities since, “although it’s true that there is a worldwide economic crisis and inflation” that will impact everyone, Puerto Rico is in a very valuable position given the allocation of more than $100 billion in federal funding slated to be injected into the island’s economy.
“We urge the public sector to operate with efficiency and agility to maximize these funds and that Puerto Rico can achieve the much-needed improvements to continue attracting investment and promoting sustainable and competitive economic activity,” McKenzie concluded.