Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Sen. Romero Laser-Focused on San Juan Economy

By on September 17, 2020

Sen. Miguel Romero, left, during a visit to a farmers market.

NPP Candidate for Mayor Says ‘Economic Activity is Produced by Generating it’

Editor’s note: This report first appeared in the Sept. 17-23, 2020, issue of Caribbean Business.

Despite acknowledging the widespread dissatisfaction of Puerto Rico’s electorate with the two main political parties, which have ruled the electoral map for the past 52 years, Sen. Miguel Romero, the candidate for mayor of San Juan for the majority New Progressive Party (NPP) in the 2020 general elections, assured that his track record is his best cover letter to prove, as he put it, his ability to administer the municipality more effectively than his contenders.

In an interview with Caribbean Business, the former chief of staff under the administration of former Gov. Luis Fortuño revealed an aggressive economic development plan that would address the major infrastructure problems of the island’s capital and that, as he explained, impede organized and effective economic development.

Romero dismissed allegations about the conditions of the capital made by San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who blamed them on the draconian cuts made to the budget of the municipalities by the fiscal oversight board through provisions of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act.

 “That is false; it is incorrect. Bayamón and Carolina are municipalities that have also lost subsidies, that have been affected by the economic situation and that, like San Juan, have suffered the impact of natural phenomena while in the metropolitan area, and do not have the problems that San Juan has,” denounced Romero, who is also a former Labor Department secretary.

“San Juan has been marked by the filth, decorated with graffiti; it is blanketed by overgrown weeds, and that is a social and urban problem that creates difficulties for economic development and quality of life,” the candidate added.

The lawmaker pointed to the deterioration of infrastructure and the administration of city hall as the problems he was preparing to address with haste if elected, and which, he said, is at the root of the problem of economic development in the area. A highly bureaucratic permitting process makes matter worse. The latter, he assured, has scared away the investment of small and midsize businesses in the capital, as entrepreneurs face an almost impenetrable bureaucratic wall to begin operating.

 “This is an administrative problem that includes how permits are processed. Because [San Juan] is the capital, it is where most people focus when looking for opportunities to invest—which is good for the city, because it generates revenue from construction taxes, municipal licenses, generates IVU [Spanish acronym for sales and use tax]—but when they arrive in San Juan, they find an obstacle in a system of granting permits that does not work, which has become a stumbling block for investors,” he said, adding that “there is a magnificent opportunity to develop San Juan if someone comes, as I have come, to properly manage the city.”

Romero mentioned the importance of properly administering the more than $10 billion in federal funds that will be available to develop effective energy transmission and distribution infrastructure that can enable sound economic development. An opportunity that the candidate classified as “unique” to deal with the serious infrastructure problems that afflict the city.

Development ideas

The mayoral hopeful spoke with Caribbean Business about his aggressive development plan for the capital if he were to be elected, and stated that “economic activity is produced by generating it.”

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