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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Business groups rip Legislature for lack of economic vision

United Retailers Center President Jesús Vázquez

By John McPhaul

A group of business leaders charged Thursday that the island Legislature is not working for the benefit of the people, is totally ignoring a vision of economic development, and is making excessive use of its legislative power.

The business operators represent the United Retailers Center (CUD by its Spanish acronym), the Puerto Rico Restaurants Association (ASORE), the Retail Trade Association (ACDET), and the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution.

They said they are extremely concerned about the way bills are being handled in the Legislature. They also charged that many of the measures are passing without public hearings or economic studies on the impact they will have on the island and on the productive sector, which employs the majority of Puerto Rico residents. They complained that House Bill 1244 on labor reform has not passed through any hearing and was approved in the lower chamber without any studies or analysis.

“We are in the worst inflation of the past 25 years, and every day this worsens with the war between Russia and Ukraine,” CUD President Jesús Vázquez said in a written statement. “We have been through five years of complicated situations, including hurricanes, earthquakes, the pandemic and now the war, and our Legislature, instead of seeking solutions or reaching agreements where all parties can collaborate to improve the economic development of the country, what they are doing are [filing] bills that do not contribute anything to the growth of the island.”

The CUD leader called on the Legislature to create bills that help small and midsize entrepreneurs and citizens in general. He said that given the increases in the cost of living in all essential services such as electricity, tolls, and gasoline, as well as the increase in rates of the Transportation Bureau and now the labor reform, the cost of products and services will be too high to be able to live in Puerto Rico.

Mateo Cidre, president of ASORE, added that “we are dismayed by the situation we are experiencing.”

“For the restaurant sector, it is important to work hand in hand with various government entities to ensure the well being of our employees, our customers, but also the viability of our businesses,” he said. “In the climate we are experiencing, the claims of different groups of merchants, among which we include ourselves, are not being properly addressed in order to seek the well being of our island in all areas.”

Likewise, ACDET Presiden Iván Báez said: “As merchants and entrepreneurs, we call on the Legislature to define and implement an economic development plan for Puerto Rico and to include and promote legislation … aimed at reducing the cost of doing business, increasing competitiveness and providing certainty to companies and new investments.”

“The path we are taking, of continuing to impose more workloads, taxes and obstacles to doing business, without taking into account the reality of the island, the economic recession, bankruptcy, the increase in the minimum wage, among other factors, can lead us in the economy and therefore the citizens to a situation of poverty and aggravated crisis.”

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