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Recommendations to Activate Puerto Rico Economy in Governor’s Hands

By on April 21, 2020

(Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash)

Plan Includes Assessing Covid-19 Spread Risk to Gradually Reopen Sectors

SAN JUAN — The secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC), Manuel Laboy Rivera, announced Monday that, after weeks of work by the Economic Task Force, Gov. Wanda Vázquez has been presented recommendations to activate the island’s economy, after the paralysis of certain operations to avoid the spread of Covid-19.

“As a team, the members of the private and government sectors, we evaluated several alternatives so that various economic sectors resume their operations, as long as it is done gradually and in harmony with the situation that is the pandemic. We are all responsible for the economic development of Puerto Rico, but it is essential that these actions occur while safeguarding the health and safety of the workforce,” Laboy Rivera said.

“When Puerto Rico is ready to open, we trust that the recommendations will be the guide to gradually restart operations in the private sector safely,” the secretary explained.

The Economic Task Force is made up of approximately 50 representatives of the private sector and it is led by the president of the Business Emergency Operations Center, Emilio Colón Zavala.

The also former chairman of the Puerto Rico Builders Association said that “after five weeks of closure and mobility restriction measures having been implemented, it is important to evaluate moving to a transition phase to reactivate our economy. It is now time to start an orderly process, in phases, in two-week cycles, that allows our people to return to work. ”

Colón Zavala, also said that when making the measures more flexible, “the infection risk level, number of jobs and percent of the gross national product (GNP) of each sector must be taken into account. Everything must be tied to the monitoring of our hospital infrastructure, test results and tracing the contacts of those who test positive.”

The economist Roberto Toledo said that the task force’s “north has been to develop indices that indicate the capacity of the health system to not saturate it, risk indices by economic sector and economic impact to direct us with validated data—which sectors to recommend and open before others. This is supported by standardized CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] guidelines on how to operate even under the threat of Covid-19. ”

In a WKAQ radio interview, Laboy said that the report presented recommends reactivating the construction sector.

“I have been saying that the manufacturing sector, the real estate sector can gradually open up, as long as we have the controls needed to protect the health of employees and that this economic activity does not become” a hotspot, the official said.

He added that representatives of the vehicle sales sector proposed selling them online.

“I have had several conversations with the organization that represents the automobile sector in Puerto Rico, GUIA [Spanish acronym for United Automobile Importers Group], which have also made recommendations. For example, people are talking about allowing themselves to sell vehicles online…. I think we can do it because I am favoring electronic commerce,” he explained.

Another option is that dealerships operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. twice a week, instead of 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., as established by the executive order of curfew and business closures.

For her part, Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said that “the evaluation of the levels of infection of the population, the protective measures that employers will take for their employees and how the pandemic is developing at the level of our island will be the indispensable criteria” when deteciding when and how to lift the lockdown and curfew.

Once the plan is evaluated by the team, the measures that could be gradually included for implementation will be announced, Laboy said.

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