NEW YORK – Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi said yesterday that Puerto Rico continues to position the island as an attractive destination in which to invest, fostering new investments during PRNOW, the government’s economic summit that this year moved to New York City.
A little more than a year since the central government’s Plan of Adjustment (PDA) went into effect, the Pierluisi administration sought to reacquaint investors who attended the forum, which will continue today at Cipriani Wall Street, former home of the New York Stock Exchange, in the city’s Financial District.
According to the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (Aafaf), the agency organizing the PRNOW conference, over 400 people registered for the event.
Pierluisi described Puerto Rico as a place of growth and investment opportunities after having successfully restructured its debt.
The governor listed financial progress, such as the economy’s 3.7 percent growth in the past fiscal year and the historically low unemployment rate, which stands at 6 percent.
“After more than a decade of fiscal challenges, natural disasters, and a global pandemic, our island has emerged stronger than ever,” Pierluisi told the audience in English. “We have put our government’s bankruptcy behind us.”
As Puerto Rico seeks to return to the capital markets, Pierluisi said it is important for the island to keep interacting with the New York financial community “so they keep backing us up in the coming years.”
“We’re looking forward to the day we enter the capital markets again,” said the governor during a panel with New York Governor Kathy Hochul and added that the island looks “forward to the day we enter the capital markets again,” but did not specify when that might happen.
Pierluisi highlighted the progress in the reconstruction efforts funded with more than $6.5 billion in federal and state funds.
As for the power grid reconstruction process, he said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved more than 70 projects and more than 40 are already underway. He also highlighted the goal of generating 40 percent of Puerto Rico’s energy from renewable sources by 2025.
Currently, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (NEPR, Spanish acronym) has approved some 18 renewable energy projects that would be key to achieving this goal provided for in the Puerto Rico Energy Policy Act.
However, these projects are at risk due to delays in grid interconnection work. The NEPR, which has also approved two other rounds of renewable projects, announced that it will investigate the delay in solar energy projects.
“A modern and renewed Puerto Rico is indispensable for all aspects of our collective life, including health care, safety, education, economic development, and quality of life in general,” Pierliuisi said.
Manuel Laboy, Executive Director of the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3), assured that the reconstruction is fully underway.
Laboy´s expressions came during a panel on recovery efforts following Hurricanes Irma and María in 2017 and the 2020 earthquakes.
Laboy said that while by December 2020, only some $153 million had been disbursed for permanent projects, two years later, that figure has risen to $1.6 billion.
Diaspora protests outside
While inside the Cipriani Wall Street, Pierluisi and his economic team spoke only of progress, outside, in the morning, a group of protesters booed those who were attending the event.
The protesters claimed the summit was an event to celebrate “the sale” of Puerto Rico.
Waving the Puerto Rican flag, demonstrators chanted: “Puerto Rico is not for sale. Puerto Rico defends itself”. Some were holding a sign that read, “Pierluisi is a criminal.”
“We don´t want to be displaced,” said Lorraine Liriano, of the A Call to Action on Puerto Rico group, which is part of the Puerto Rico Not For Sale campaign, or Puerto Rico no se Vende, which called the protest.
“If we don’t have land, we are no longer Puerto Ricans,” protesters cried out.
The summit continues today when executives from Genera PR Luma Energy are expected to bring their perspective on the transformation of the power system and analysts and investors who have followed Puerto Rico’s credit history are expected to evaluate the financial restructuring process under PROMESA Act and the island’s economic situation.