Gov. Ricardo Rosselló unveiled Tuesday a bill to streamline and integrate the Puerto Rico’s permitting process, which has received the private sector’s backing and should facilitate the opening of new businesses.
Among the most significant changes included in the measure is the creation of the Unified Information System that will allow, in a single digital portal, integration of all processes to apply for permits.
“The cost of doing business in Puerto Rico is significantly high, limiting the ability to compete globally and attract new capital,” Rosselló said.
“With these changes to the process of issuing permits, the labor reform, and tax reform that we will be presenting, among other measures, we will make Puerto Rico again be the ideal place to do business,” he said.
The new system also seeks to promote transparency by making available to the public all applications in the same place, whether from autonomous municipalities or the central government. All applications will be filed through the same digital platform, he said.
“Certainly this initiative is another decisive step in a comprehensive vision of economic development,” said Puerto Rico Builders Association President Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz.
“We can not succeed without creating fertile ground for investment and development,” he said.
As detailed in Rosselló’s “Plan para Puerto Rico” platform, “overregulation, lack of uniformity and complexity of the processes in evaluating applications are the main problems that contribute to the deterioration of our system of permits.”
Given this reality, the bill will seek to provide certainty, reliability, efficiency and stability permitting process, the governor said.
The permits reform also responds to the need to continue taking concerted actions to turn Puerto Rico into a place that is open for business, improving permitting processes, as pointed out by the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, the governor said.
“The economy is stagnant and we have to move it. There are other projects that merit depth and analysis,” said Ralph A. Kreil-Rivera, president of the College of Engineers and Surveyors of Puerto Rico.
“However, there are other simple projects that professional architects and engineers are prepared to make viable, while being responsible with our island,” he said.
The proposal creates a mechanism that will allow projects that meet with set parameters to get automatic permits. In addition, procedures are simplified and consolidated for usage permits, fire prevention certifications, environmental health, licensing and authorizations to grant a single permit. The bill also creates the Single Incidental Operational Permit for a number of other requirements.
Also, the measure presented by the governor establishes agility and certainty with specific maximum terms to evaluate and adjudicate the submitted applications.
“This reform is important to continue to build credibility with entrepreneurs who want to invest and to facilitate doing business in Puerto Rico,” said Nelson Narváez, president of the Building Materials Merchants Association.
“With these measures we suppliers of building materials will see short-term economic benefits, as all of us in the construction chain — manufacturers, distributors and hardware distributors — will benefit,” he said.