Fiscal board urges agencies to ease licensing processes
By The Star Staff
The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico is urging several island government entities to ease licensing requirements in order to slow the brain drain of professionals.
The oversight board in letters to the Treasury Department, Health Department, Insurance Commissioner and Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DNER) said the certified 2021 Fiscal Plan for the Commonwealth provides for occupational licenses reform as part of the ease-of-doing-business requirements. The board said current occupational licensing requirements complicate certain workers’ entry into the formal workforce and expose applicants to lengthy wait times and potential costs.
“Occupational licensing is meant to ensure high-quality services while protecting public safety,” the oversight board said. “However, overregulation in this area creates a strong disincentive for certain workers to move into the formal labor force. To promote labor force participation and create incentives for skilled workers to remain on-Island, the Government should, as appropriate, streamline, eliminate, or harmonize occupational licensing requirements with those on the U.S. mainland.”
By aligning licensing requirements with other jurisdictions, professionals could consider Puerto Rico as an attractive relocation destination, the oversight board said. Additionally, the government should leverage established best practices when creating new licenses to produce less burdensome regulations and reduce the need for future time-intensive legislative overhauls, the entity said.
The island Department of State has been leading the effort to reform occupational licenses, for which the department entered into an agreement with the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) to examine the requirements and timeframes for obtaining and renewing such licenses.
Professor Alex Ruiz, chair of the Graduate Business School at the UPR Río Piedras Campus, is leading a team that includes professors, doctoral and undergraduate students that have been gathering the required information. There are 141 licenses in Puerto Rico that are administered by 14 agencies, with the Department of Health being the administrator of 43% (61) of those licenses.
The oversight board noted that there have been multiple requests made to the Health Department to provide information on those licenses; however, as of Monday the team was missing information for 41 licenses.
The Treasury Department administers the events coordinator license, while the DNER administers four of the licenses: commercial fisherman, rental boat owner, navigation, and tire manufacturer and importer. The Insurance Commissioner’s Office (OCS by its Spanish initials) administers five of the licenses: adjuster, producer, consultant, representative and solicitor. There have been multiple requests to the OCS to provide information on these licenses, the oversight board said. However, as of Monday the team had not received the information. Puerto Rico has lost thousands of professionals in recent years, the oversight board pointed out, and so the government must focus on improving the processes necessary to retain the professionals it still has, including obtaining, and renewing the required licenses. To complete the research and to be able to compare all these licensing processes to those in the states that have reformed and improved their licensing processes, and those to which Puerto Ricans are migrating, the board is urging agencies to submit information by Jan. 31.