Leo Díaz promises to streamline permits process in San Juan
SAN JUAN – The New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for mayor of San Juan, Leo Díaz Urbina, promised to speed up the permits process for new businesses in the capital in order to foster economic development, hand in hand with the private sector amid times when the municipality and the government are having difficulty accessing capital markets.
The proposal is to change the current pyramid structure to one of panels comprising skilled experts in different development areas, as well as emphasizing transparency in the process so applicants can monitor the status of their permits.
“As mayor, I’ll be overseeing how permits are granted because no permit can remain stalled due to a lack of documents, because the documents also have to be looked for by the municipality; it no longer rests solely on the petitioner,” the mayoral hopeful told reporters as he finished his presentation of proposals to the Private Sector Coalition at the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce’s (CofC) headquarters in Old San Juan.
The changes are also aimed at simplifying the process depending on the business to be established and at having the municipality become an active participant in the procedure.
“It is outrageous that when someone wants to establish a medical office in a mall in Puerto Rico, they end up waiting a year for a permit. But if the mall already has a parent permit and all locales should already have permits, you simply need to bring the lease,” he said as an example.
For CofC President David Rodríguez, who is a member of the Private Sector Coalition, the proposal to expedite permits is “positive,” since the organization “has always been looking to make the process quicker.” However, he noted it is necessary to unify the requirements island-wide because, “depending on the municipality, the requirements change,” which confuses and delays business people.
Public Property Inventory
Along with his permits proposal, Díaz Urbina will give priority to “begin lowering the costs” of operating businesses in San Juan by lowering taxes, particularly with regard to inventory, seeking to avoid excessive charges to businesses for keeping merchandise in storage.
The mayoral hopeful also announced that, if elected, he would create an inventory of property that is abandoned or in disuse in the capital to be posted online with information about their location, owner, debt, approved permits in the area and if there are incentives to develop the site.
This is so people, not only on the island, but also abroad, can obtain information about residential, commercial and industrial buildings, and determine if they want to invest.
Other proposals presented are the creation of a “new residential and commercial quadrant in Río Piedras” through public-private partnerships, for which he said he has already been approached, as well as finding the $600 million needed to dredge the Martín Peña Channel. For this, he would meet with members of the U.S. Congress.
The CofC president said the private sector is willing to invest in the island because it is the “only alternative” the government has to continue economic development amid the fiscal plan to be reviewed by the fiscal board established by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (Promesa).
“The private sector is the one that needs to grow. […] We aren’t talking about more incentives. What we are looking for is: One, for there not to be constant regulatory changes; two, for there to be tax certainty,” said Rodríguez, who also believes that the gross receipt tax imposed during this administration was a major hindrance to business.