After putting his signature on the new Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Act yesterday, Governor Ricardo Rosselló guaranteed that the agreements reached under the new statute will be transparent and open to competition, and will guarantee the value of the assets in question.
According to the Governor, the legislative measure—which was approved on Tuesday by the House of Representatives and Senate without holding public hearings, and with the opposition of the minority—points in two directions. The first, he said, is proving that Puerto Rico is open for business, and the second is to turn the Island into a more attractive business destination.
“What this will allow us to do is to go to different places and make sure that initiatives are established here in Puerto Rico. That places like Disney, Harvard, and the Mayo Clinic can come to Puerto Rico and collaborate through this PPP mechanism,” he stated.
He said that the measure would also help improve and reduce the costs of services provided by the government, as well as enabling the participation of local merchants in PPP developments, and securing additional funding for sensitive areas, like the Retirement Systems.
When asked by the press, Rosselló guaranteed that they will protect the value of the assets in question. He maintained, however, that these partnerships are intended mainly for service areas, not for public assets in Puerto Rico.
To this end, he explained, they will establish what will be known as the Conferencia de Alianzas Público-Privadas (“Public-Private Partnerships Conference”). The plan is that the Government, as well as the private industry, the third sector, and academia, can participate, collaborate, and propose possible agreements. “Of course, it will be open to competition, and if there are other people, other groups that can submit a better offer for the people, that’s the one we’re going to grant,” Rosselló asserted.
He stated that it is not about establishing “privatizations,” but a process where a service or space is provided for an allotted period of time, and is later returned to the people.
He insisted that this is a measure that has been adopted and proven in other countries. “Cuba privatized its airport. In Brazil, a group of PPPs were established to provide better services to the citizens. We’re not doing this with any other motivation than to create jobs, reduce government expenses, and provide better services to the citizens,” he specified.
Rosselló was not specific about the amount of jobs that could be created through these contracts. He said it would depend on the scale of the project and type of agreement. “This isn’t going to be done in dark alleyways. It will be done publicly and, as new opportunities are found, it will be done through auctions,” he insisted.
The law, as approved, creates the concept of the Participatory PPP, and establishes the “pre-development agreement” mechanism, through which a private company agrees to assess the feasibility of specific or priority projects. These agreements also permit “unsolicited proposals”, which allow the private sector to submit a written PPP proposal for developments that the government has not subjected to the proposal application process.
The bill was rejected by the minorities of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PRIP). The measure was not debated, nor did it include a report by the Commission on Economic Development, Planning, Telecommunications, Public-Private Partnerships, and Energy.
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