Washington - This week, the Manufacturers Association consulted members of Congress about the impact –on the management of disaster relief funds- of a possible “transparency process” that the island´s government may establish in bids for reconstruction projects.
According to Rodrigo Masses, president of the Manufacturers Association, Congress members answered that it could be a significant incentive to regain confidence on the government of Puerto Rico.
After the meetings held on federal lawmakers on Wednesday and Thursday, Masses said yesterday that the next step will be to take a formal proposal to Governor Ricardo Rosselló with specific recommendations on how provide transparency and accountability to the hiring process.
Masses said that more clarity in the reconstruction process would also help to avoid the imposition of a trustee for the Electric Power Authority (PREPA), as creditors of the public corporation requested before federal court.
In Congress, Democrat Raúl Grijalva, current chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, is analyzing the possibility of creating an "inspector general" position, for PREPA, at a federal level. "These ideas should be evaluated," said Masses.
The government of Puerto Rico has insisted that they are working on "the most transparent process" of any reconstruction process. However, amid this week's meetings, Masses said that although the process is reasonable, it can be improved.
Along with lobbyist Jerry Weller (former Republican Illinois Rep.) Masses met with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), and Roger Wicker (Mississippi), and Bruce Walker, Assistant Secretary, Office of Electricity US Department of Energy.
They also met with Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Maryland), Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan (Florida), Democratic Congressman Albio Sires (New Jersey), and officials from the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Energy and Senate Natural Resources Committee, among others.
He said that Weller, who has an office in Washington D.C., is also meeting with many of the new members of Congress.
Masses added that the U.S. government is looking for ways to help Puerto Rico and the big concern is about funds management.
He insisted that an amendment to processes both for PREPA´s assets and services for them to be transparent to proponents, would help to dispel doubts in Congress and expedite the release of reconstruction funds.
Masses said that, in turn, the Manufacturers Association maintains their claim to Congress for a lower federal tax rate for U.S. companies that do business in Puerto Rico as foreign companies.
He thinks it is clear that what they are trying to fix was already broken before Hurricane María and that almost all the problems originated in 2006, with the migration of manufacturing (and the collapse of the economy). If PREPA had not lost the demand it lost with the migration of manufacturing – for example, and without blaming anyone –, “it would have had the funds to pay its debt and continue developing its project.”
According to Masses, after the 2017 federal tax reform, Governor Rosselló remains in solidarity with the private sector's demands for a "fair rate" for Controlled Foreign Corporations (CFCs) in Puerto Rico.
That reform imposed a new tax – 10.5 percent – on income from patents and trademarks development transferred from a company in the United States to a CFC.
Although the island´s authorities also promote in Congress access to the Child Tax Credit – which only families with three or more children can receive – and extend the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Masses said that they are initiatives that will improve consumption, but "they will not solve the problem of the Puerto Rican economy."