House passes Puerto Rico Statistics Institute consolidation bill
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives made way for the reorganization plan of the Economic Development and Commerce Department (DDEC by its Spanish acronym), which would place the Institute of Statistics within the agency as well consolidate the Tourism Co. (PRTC).
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s measure was passed without allowing debate, despite being opposed by various sectors, including the island’s Financial Oversight & Management Board and minority lawmakers.
Among the amendments to the measure submitted a second time at the beginning of March by the Rosselló administration is the creation of the Tourism Office, a separate structure that would have an executive director.
“With this new proposal, it is established that DDEC has to take measures to allow the current Tourism Company to have its own, specialized office within it,” Concurrent House Resolution 67 reads. However, the bill maintains that “the vehicle for [its] successive consolidation” must be provided.
On Sunday, leaders of the hospitality industry petitioned Rosselló not to allow the future consolidation of Tourism, arguing it would result in the loss of more than 80,000 direct and indirect jobs in that sector.
“We request that Governor Ricardo Rosselló and all members of the Legislative branch stop any attempt to dismantle the PRTC, as it would be disastrous for tourism in Puerto Rico, one of the few industries with the ability to inject new money into our economy immediately,” wrote the chairman of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association, Miguel Vega.
According to government-provided data, the reorganization bill passed Monday would allow savings of $7.8 million the first year and $96 million in the first five years.
Another controversial matter of the measure is the proposed consolidation of the Statistics Institute. Its executive director, Mario Marazzi, has argued on several occasions that the government entity must remain a “public instrumentality, independent and separate from the government of Puerto Rico.”
In a letter signed by the fiscal oversight board’s executive director, Natalie Jaresko, the panel urged the government to “retain and strengthen the Statistics Institute as an independent agency,” despite acknowledging the foreseen savings of the plan’s execution.
La Fortaleza Public Affairs Secretary Ramón Rosario explained that DDEC would be the entity in charge of designing the process to privatize the Statistics Institute. The administration official described the entity’s privatization as a strategy to provide “real independence” to its board.