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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Pierluisi highlights economic achievements to manufacturers

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Thursday highlighted his administration’s economic achievements, reaffirmed his commitment to the island’s industrial and business development, and spoke about the improvements implemented in the permit system.

In his remarks at the opening of the Manufacturers Association 2024 Convention at El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, Pierluisi emphasized that the industrial sector is key to the island’s economy and that his vision recognizes the success of companies and entrepreneurs as an engine of the economy.

“For me, it is a priority to support Puerto Rico’s industrial sector since it is responsible for a significant part of our economy,” the governor said. “It is important to remember where we were in 2021 to notice the achievements we have made. We were battling the pandemic, government bankruptcy, and oversight board cuts, and there was great uncertainty about our future. The economy was stagnant, and reconstruction was paralyzed. We defeated the pandemic, we excelled in vaccination and we supported our industries to reopen and boost our economy.”

Pierluisi also highlighted that the government’s bankruptcy was left behind, which has been vital to economic development. “There is no doubt that our progress-oriented policies are already working and building confidence among investors,” he said.

In fact, the governor reiterated, the economy has responded positively and economic indicators remain in positive territory, with an average growth of 2.5% annually, something that had not been seen in decades. Likewise, the Puerto Rico Planning Board forecasts positive growth for the next 10 years.

“In addition, we now have 129,000 more jobs than in January 2021, our workforce is larger than 15 years ago, when we had 500,000 additional residents, our labor participation has increased five percentage points and our unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, the lowest in the history of Puerto Rico,” Pierluisi said. “These are real and indisputable numbers. The manufacturing sector, which accounts for more than 40 percent of our gross domestic product, has shown steady growth. Industrial activity has increased by 22.5 percent since 2021, and we now have about 84,000 direct jobs in this sector, an increase of about 9,000 jobs since 2021.”

Regarding the permit system, Pierluisi noted that the extensive process carried out by the Planning Board to develop the new joint regulation in response to current planning needs in Puerto Rico has already been completed. The final document has been pending approval by the Financial Oversight and Management Board for several months and will be promulgated as soon as it is approved, he said.

The Planning Board also continues its efforts to assist municipalities that do not have an approved Land Use Plan, which will improve the speed with which permits can be granted in those towns, the governor pointed out.

“At the same time, the optimization of the Single Business Portal, into which the Permit Management Office has already integrated 50 municipalities, has reduced the evaluation times for construction permits and has made it so that practically all single ministerial permits are granted in less than 12 hours,” Pierluisi said.

In his message, the governor also noted the investment being made in the University of Puerto Rico’s Molecular Center, which he said has three centers for preclinical studies and innovation that will serve to enrich the business and scientific ecosystem in Puerto Rico. The center is part of a planned and concerted strategy to turn the island into a hub or headquarters in the life sciences industry and attract companies as part of the multi-sector approach to economic development called PRopósito, Pierluisi said.

The governor went on to highlight the island as a leader in the biosciences, aerospace and logistics industries, pointing out that 12 of the top 20 biopharmaceutical companies and 12 of the top 20 medical device companies in the world are doing business in Puerto Rico.

Regarding reconstruction, Pierluisi maintained that federal funds for recovery are having a positive impact on the economy.

“Now, right now many of our most successful industries have nothing to do with those funds, such as manufacturing and tourism, among others,” he said. “We have strategically invested funds to generate economic activity, stimulate job creation, modernize our infrastructure and lay the foundations for sustainable economic development in multiple areas and sectors.”

In his message the governor stressed that the modernization and renewal of infrastructure is clearly a spearhead for the growth of Puerto Rico, because it will serve as the basis of the resilient economic development that the island needs.

“When we started there were only 81 completed projects and today we have more than 3,300 completed works, over 3,500 under construction and another 6,000 underway,” Pierluisi said. “These include projects in the energy, transportation, water and sewage, housing and educational infrastructure sectors.”

After noting several “more complex” public works projects “that require years to complete,” the governor said the transformation of the energy system is one of his highest priorities, since it affects everyone, and is key to economic development.

“For the reconstruction of the electrical system that is underway, we have 210 projects in the construction stage with an investment of over $920 million, and 37 large-scale projects are already in the advanced design process with an investment of an additional $1,350 million,” Pierluisi said. “This includes the replacement of substations, transmission and distribution lines, poles and street lights, vegetation control, and repairs at our generation plants, which is gradually strengthening our system. In addition, we have supported the installation of individual solar systems. There are already more than 110,000 connected to our electrical grid, including hundreds of SMEs [small and midsize enterprises] whom we are helping to have a solar system.”

“As in any area affected by a major natural disaster, this massive reconstruction will continue for many years and will provide Puerto Rico with the improved and resilient infrastructure it needs for its future,” the governor added. “There is still a lot to do on the government side. Still, I am very optimistic about everything we can achieve together.”

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