Pierluisi Presents Ideas to Tackle Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Crisis
HUMACAO, Puerto Rico – New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial hopeful Pedro Pierluisi presented some of his proposed solutions to address Puerto Rico’s financial crisis during his appearance at the first Eastern Area Ideas Forum.
“The biggest problem Puerto Rico faces is its lack of economic growth, and we need to focus all our efforts on Puerto Rico growing again,” Pierluisi said at the event sponsored by WALO Radio 1240 AM in the Center for Fine Arts in Humacao.
The also party president assured he would focus on strengthening the private sector to become the central driver of economic growth. “When the private sector grows, when we strengthen the private sector, we create opportunities, create movement, create jobs,” he said.
Pierluisi said he intends to restore credibility and fiscal discipline to the island by strengthening competitiveness and through tax reform that “truly establishes a fairer and simpler system without punishing the taxpayer, and in which the pensions are tax-free.”
The also resident commissioner in Washington, D.C., said “there are plenty of plans,” but warned “there are good and bad ones…but all are bad if one doesn’t have the ability and experience to execute them and get results.”
“Here in the East, there are many examples of results: Route 66’s extension from Canóvanas to Río Grande, the Valenciano dam, 21st Century schools, expanded healthcare programs, more federal funding for educational and social programs like Head Start and Early Head Start,” he said.
Pierluisi said those were only some of the achievements in education in the area with more than $1.2 billion in federal funds.
“Imagine if we complement this by making the private sector the backbone of economic growth; imagine what we can achieve if we see small and midsize businesses as the lynchpin of the economy,” Pierluisi said at the forum.
He emphasized that the greatest impediment to Puerto Rico’s progress is the current territorial status and that he is convinced statehood is the “permanent solution” to the island’s socioeconomic problems, thus “we will immediately embark on the process of Puerto Rico’s admission as a U.S. state.”
Pierluisi said that in the short term, so the economy stops being impacted by “unreasonable taxes,” he would implement a concrete strategy to restore the government’s credibility before local and foreign investors and stabilize public finances.
This, he said, will improve the government’s credit and access to markets, as well as reduce the “excessive cost of interest now paid for having damaged credit.”
At the same time, he said he will focus on measures that would create a favorable environment for business and investment, “and create a real alliance with the private sector to promote the economic development of Puerto Rico.”
He said his goal is for the island to experience “unprecedented investment and significant economic growth” between 2017 and 2020. “One factor in that growth will be to strengthen the use of public-private partnerships and federal funding to achieve great projects of economic growth with private capital. We’ll make capital improvements throughout Puerto Rico viable, maximizing the use of federal funds and public-private partnerships, which will create jobs and positively impact the construction sector,” Pierluisi reiterated.
The party president intends to promote, were he to become governor, innovation and technology as an industry to make it another export hub.
“We will have the collaboration of the U.S. Digital Service to transform our technology infrastructure, which is key to government efficiency,” Pierluisi said while emphasizing the need to finalize the redevelopment of the Roosevelt Roads former Navy base.
“In Puerto Rico, we have highly skilled employees and more competitive wages than in the states, an existing ecosystem of services at lower cost, and more attractive state and municipal tax benefits,” he added.
The candidate spoke of the creation of a public-private entity to promote and develop the “Puerto Rico, USA” brand to promote tourism, manufacturing, services, technology and industrial agriculture. Similarly, he mentioned the “Buy PR” and “From the Farm to Your Table” programs promoting the purchase of products made in Puerto Rico in support of small and midsize businesses and agricultural cooperatives.
Inter News Service