Gov. Ricardo Rosselló delivered his third State of the Commonwealth address Thursday, vowing to implement a number of measures to reposition Puerto Rico and support its recovery.
During his speech at the Puerto Rico Capitol building, Rosselló explained the need of an agenda that looks firmly into the future.
“The solution to the problems is facilitated as we seek to work together and achieve areas of consensus, where common sense and the main objective is Puerto Rico and not an individual interest,” he said.
“Although political-partisan dynamics make harder to achieve what should be a noble purpose, I am optimistic and believe in Puerto Ricans: In our ability to excel and understand,” said Rosselló.
As a first objective, the governor established a “Puerto Rico Open for Business” policy, meant to facilitate job creation to develop a new economy and fight bureaucracy. In that initiative, he mentioned the need to pass a new Incentives Code currently under the consideration of the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly.
“This Code of Incentives will measure the return on investment and give certainty to the market,” he said.
“Additionally, small and medium-sized enterprises and the agro-industry will benefit; commitment to farmers, cinema, culture, and tourism is reaffirmed; and opportunities for our young people are promoted. Programs for the elderly are also included in the new Incentives Code,” he said.
The second objective he laid out was the aspiration to make Puerto Rico the “Connector of the Americas,” due to its geographical, human resources, and relationship with the United States. He also stressed Puerto Rico’s shared culture with Latin America, its tourism offer, and its competitive capacities in exporting.
A third goal seeks to position Puerto Rico as an “Island of Innovation,” where human resources are maximized to provide solutions that add value to Puerto Rico before the world.
He presented his proposal to transform the energy supply as key to innovation, positioning the consumer “as the center of a new model that provides renewable energy and distributed generation to improve the impact on the environment.”
“We have passed two laws that lead the transformation and establish public policy. Purely and simply, we are leaving behind the expensive model — which is harmful to the environment, unreliable, old, poorly maintained, and highly vulnerable — to build a new model of Energy 2.0, that is at the forefront and that serves our people. In energy, we will be the Island of Innovation,” he said.
But Rosselló warned that, to be an island of innovation, the people of Puerto Rico are key, saying the fourth objective must be to turn the island into the “Center of the Human Cloud” and reverse the migration that has been manifested during the last 70 years.
He stipulated that conditions will be created to stop the exodus, but also to invite those who have left Puerto Rico to return.
He went on to describe the final objective, which he described as the “Enabling State,” and defined as “a government that establishes in its public policy the fundamental principle of the freedom of citizens and the offering of opportunities.”
As part of that effort, Rosselló said he signed an executive order to create a multi-sector working group which will implement the right to free university access for those who qualify for their merits and credentials. The executive order dictates that a report must be submitted for its design and implementation within the next 120 days.
“An enabling state directly fights inequality by facilitating mobility and social economic development,” he said.
During his speech, Rosselló acknowledged a number of mistakes he has made along the way, namely, the extended amount of time that relatives have for the bodies of their loved ones in the Institute of Forensic Sciences, as well as the much-criticized cutback to the Río Piedras Medical Center’s budget.
“In the consolidated budget there was an increase of $3 million. I have given instructions to work on this issue and that Centro Médico does not experience a budget decrease,” said Rosselló, adding the original draft of the budget included an error.