Some of the concerns that keep citizens awake may not be too distant from those that cause businessmen and merchants nightmares, judging by the results of a survey conducted by the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, in which He asked a diverse sample of the public on issues that concern the business community.
As explained by Juan Carlos Agosto Martínez, president of the Chamber of Commerce, the result of the survey reflects that the issues that the vast majority of people consider most important to reactivate Puerto Rico’s economy coincide with those proposed by entrepreneurs and merchants. .
“Those 12 points are the points where people and companies are thought to be, they coincide. It is not how many think that something more fierce “August commented.
He explained that the survey has a sample of 600 people, from all over Puerto Rico, representative of different groups, ages and with a margin of error of 5%. That group was asked about 12 points that the Chamber of Commerce had identified as necessary to be able to reactivate the economy.
“If you look at the findings, you see that they agree with what they think. The number one concern is the coronavirus (COVID-19), which is a very important issue for everyone. Without health there is no economy, and right now, we are in another phase of restrictions, and that puts pressure on companies but at the same time puts pressure on employees “he explained.
He explained that recent studies indicate that in Puerto Rico there are about 44,000 registered companies and of that number about 37,000 have 20 employees or less. And that last group, are companies that have an average of no more than four to six weeks of cash flow to continue operating.
“That is why it is so critical that we can create a clear and strong health program to be able to control the virus and operate as well as possible. Otherwise, these companies are going to eat up the ‘cash flow’ and they will not be able to operate ”, said the business leader.
“Those companies with five or fewer employees number about 20,000 and employ over 160,000 people. They are jobs that can be put at risk to the extent that we cannot start. And think about the multiplier effect of that, they are not going to buy, they do not pay rent, they have to seek assistance, the government medical plan. It’s a big effect, ”he added.
According to August, Another issue on which “people and companies are aligned” is that of permits. She assured that people already relate that delays in permits have to do with jobs.
He also mentioned what concerns the energy cost, where people and companies agree that “a more resilient (energy) system is needed that will not fall in any storm, and that is something that also relates to jobs”, and also that it is a system with lower costs.
He added that the survey shows that people are not clear about the ongoing process to privatize the transmission and distribution of the Electric Power Authority, and they do not understand if that would bring them benefits.
Another point of agreement is around the federal projects before Congress to encourage manufacturing that could favor Puerto Rico. He argued that what everyone is interested in is that the island be benefited, regardless of which project is approved, whoever its author or proponent is.
Similarly, there is consensus on the need to address, as soon as possible, the issue of achieving parity in the granting of federal funds to US citizens in Puerto Rico, as it is an issue “that was previously viewed more as a political issue, but now it is being seen as an ‘issue’ of justice ”.
Nutrition assistance for people with fewer resources also comes up as an important point. The survey revealed that, of those who use the Family Card, 88% said that the funds were not enough and they had to use additional money to complete the purchase, even after it was temporarily increased by the emergency of the pandemic. .
“That tells you that the pandemic is hitting even the poorest people the hardest. So the Chamber of Commerce is supporting and fighting so that Puerto Ricans receive the same amount (in assistance) that people receive in the states, ”said Agosto.
He also highlighted the coincidence of opinion regarding the so-called inventory tax. “People are confused about this and how it works, but they know it is a problem. Companies often shy away from acquiring products because, if they don’t sell it quickly, they will have to pay for what is stored, “he commented, adding that this situation has brought with it a shortage of products in times of emergencies, as happened later. from the devastating passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Agosto stated that the Chamber of Commerce prepared a document with those 12 points and the results of the survey, which he presented to several of the candidates for governor, “And there is a commitment from all the (main) political parties to address the inventory tax issue. The only one who made a change was (Carlos) Charlie Delgado (from the Popular Democratic Party). We are all clear that we must seek funds from the municipality, but it cannot be at the expense of not being able to have supplies for when a hurricane comes “.
“We are very pleased that people saw the similarity in the points of the Chamber and the people. And we were also pleased that all the (main) parties accepted our points in general, ”said Agosto, adding that“ the PNP (New Progressive Party) welcomed it as it is; the PPD changed a word to him; the PIP (Puerto Rican Independence Party) changed some things in federal affairs, but few; and the Citizen Victory Movement (MVC) signed it as is ”.
“We understand that it is a good time. They signed it. But if that does not go down to the text of the candidate’s political platform … Now we must ensure that they include it. If everyone has it, it will be easier to insert it in January (next, after the elections) “, said Agosto, although making the caveat that “that does not mean that the private sector can sit down and say, because as you included it, that’s it. We will have to meet, have dialogues, make adjustments ”.
Finally, the business leader returned to the issue of COVID-19 and insisted that they do not support a dramatic closure of the economy, as was done at the beginning of the pandemic on the island, “for the simple reason that people have to work and earn their bread and continue to have their freedom and economic freedom ”.
“So what we propose is that we want to use more science. Right now we are closing ‘shopping centers’ (shopping centers), where people wear masks, where there are controls. And there is no data that says that infections occur in ‘shopping malls’. Yes there is data that says that we have to avoid crowds ”, he commented. “So those limitations to 25% (of capacity) what they do is postpone the demand, which is still there. And that makes more people buy online and get lost, because many e-commerce businesses do not leave anything to Puerto Rico or pay taxes here. Although, of course we also say that every entrepreneur must have an ‘online’ site for their business ”.
“So what the Chamber is asking is that this time be used in which we still have restrictions to generate the data, that it be identified where these infections occur, so that trade is not affected more. If you look, we have been closing on Sundays for some time, with other limitations, and infections have not been reduced. So, the limitation to business should not be the only thing that is done, and that we also see is not giving results. You have to do other things, “he insisted.