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Builders Association to Present Recommendations to Promesa Task Force

By on August 25, 2016

SAN JUAN — The Puerto Rico Builders Association (PRBA) unveiled its proposal for economic development Thursday, in what is the latest instance of a local, private sector organization submitting recommendations to a congressional task force that seeks ways to spur Puerto Rico’s economy.

The economic development plan mainly focuses on reducing dependence on local subsidies and incentives, and foster the internal creation of wealth through the strengthening of the private and nonprofit sectors, PRBA President Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz said.

The plan’s proposals include positioning Puerto Rico as a world-class competitor in segments in which the island has already proved strong, such as manufacturing, construction and tourism. The PRBA also wants to promote Puerto Rico as a “preferential partner” to the U.S., and continue spurring service exports under Act 20 incentives for local businesses.

Most of the association’s direct recommendations to the task force concern the island’s real estate sector, which has been particularly hard hit by the economic crisis. Some of the proposals in this segment include relaxing the access to funds from the Community Development Block Grant program, more access to New Market Tax Credits destined from community development entities in Puerto Rico, and the ability to appropriate federal funding that other jurisdictions have not used for additional access to the Low Income Housing Tax Credits program.

Puerto Rico Builders Association President Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz

Puerto Rico Builders Association President Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz

In its plan, the association also calls for the implementation of public-private partnerships to build new infrastructure projects and refocus government services that have proven unproductive. Regarding manufacturing and entrepreneurship, the PRBA recommends the revision of the regulatory framework for companies and investment funds—which includes real estate investment trusts (REITs) and legislation such as Act 93 of 2013 and Act 185 of 2014—to give local investors the opportunity to invest and compete locally.

“To achieve the stability [necessary to create the perception that Puerto Rico is a good place to invest in], we have to maximize the transparency of government services and ensure the effectiveness of its institutions,” Álvarez-Díaz added. “However, the professional and business segments also have the responsibility to assume leadership and work together with the single purpose of lifting up our economy.”

The recently enacted Promesa Act, which is set to implement a fiscal control board to oversee the island commonwealth’s dismal fiscal and economic situation, also established the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, which is chaired by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

The task force also comprises U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.); Bill Nelson (D-Fla.); and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) as well as U.S. Reps. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.); Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.); Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.); and Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico).

In early August, the task force members said they are seeking input from stakeholders, including “both the public and private sectors in Puerto Rico…as it analyzes impediments to growth on the island stemming from federal law and programs and arrives at recommendations to remove current barriers to growth.” The deadline to submit recommendations is Sept. 2.

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