Laboy: Puerto Rico is an ideal destination for business
SAN JUAN – Before a group of Chinese investors, Economic Development Secretary Manuel Laboy assured Wednesday that Puerto Rico is the ideal destination to do conduct tourism, manufacturing, infrastructure, technology and service businesses.
As part of the beginning of the first China-Puerto Rico Investment Forum, in the Pedro Rosselló Convention Center in San Juan, Laboy emphasized that the government has clear rules for private investment, beginning with being an enabler for the private sector to be the lead the island’s economic development.
The vision presented to Chinese investors by the administration is to simplify processes and offer a more agile government for the private sector.
“We are very excited with this event because it is part of [the administration’s efforts] to send the message that Puerto Rico is open for business, and that Puerto Rico is an optimal investment location. In this case, we are doing it with a group of investors from China in an alliance that we are creating with the Yingke Caribbean China Center. We want to place Puerto Rico [at the top] so the Chinese can invest here, and we believe there are numerous opportunities to optimize that investment,” said Laboy.
One of the opportunity areas discussed with more than 100 Chinese investors and business owners is in infrastructure, where Laboy said in advance that the government has already identified 25 projects that could work under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.
Specifically, the government has a list of infrastructure projects for energy, water, solid waste, technology, seaports and roads. Another area of interest the government has highlighted to Chinese investors is the tourism sector.
“Yingke is one of the biggest groups in China, possibly the biggest due to its law firm, but it also has over 10,000 travel agencies in China. It is important to emphasize that in 2016 nearly 140 million Chinese visited the United States. If only 1% of those Chinese travelers came to Puerto Rico, we would be talking about an increase of 1.4 million tourists in Puerto Rico, which would nearly double the number of visitors that come to Puerto Rico. There would be an immediate and significant impact on Puerto Rico’s tourism,” Laboy told Caribbean Business.
The Economic Development secretary added that there are opportunities to export Puerto Rican coffee, known as “premium,” to China, as there has been a increase in coffee consumption among Asia’s youth. The government’s goal is to create a coffee brand in Puerto Rico, akin to Rones de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Rums).
Puerto Rico Attracts Investors Despite Fiscal Board
The financial control board and the austerity measures it proposes shouldn’t dissuade Chinese investors from settling on the island, said the Economic Development secretary, adding that the governor’s fiscal plan deals specifically with “economic development.”
“The fiscal plan is a roadmap on how we will direct the government from a standpoint of financial and budget control, to increase Treasury’s revenue; and from an economic development standpoint, addressing health, education and safety in a responsible way. This roadmap provides certainty to investment,” said Laboy.
The official explained that the government has established clear guidelines, is creating the framework and atmosphere to make long-term investments, and has a clear message about what its role as an enabler is so the private sector takes the spotlight.