Over 70 leaders join first ‘frente por Puerto Rico’ meeting to lobby US congress

Puerto Rico Secretary of State Luis G. Rivera Marín, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló during the first Frente por Puerto Rico meeting. (Courtesy)

SAN JUAN – More than 70 Puerto Rican leaders from diverse sectors—social, political and economic—took part Tuesday in the first meeting of Frente por Puerto Rico (Front for Puerto Rico), a group created by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to lobby for fundamental issues for the island before the U.S. Government and Congress.

Specifically, the group will focus on three themes: that the island be granted healthcare funding parity with the states; to have it included in the federal tax reform; and that the recommendations of the Promesa-created Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico be approved.

The legislative presidents, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) minority leaders in the House and Senate, PDP President Héctor Ferrer, and a group of agency directors joined the initiative. Likewise, five former governors—Alejandro García Padilla, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, Carlos Romero Barceló, Pedro Rosselló González and Sila María Calderón—religious leaders and representatives from medical institutions and the private sector also took part.

Former Govs. Alejandro García Padilla, Pedro Rosselló, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and Sila María Calderón (Courtesy)

Former independent gubernatorial candidates Alexandra Lúgaro and Manuel Cidre, as well as independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot, are also part of the group. The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) was invited, but decided not to participate. The governor said that the members of the fiscal control board were not invited, although he is willing to have them.

Although they belong in the group, Romero Barceló and Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz were not at the meeting.

During the meeting in Old San Juan’s Antiguo Casino, the governor stressed the importance of the group having “a single voice” when petitioning Congress and the federal government, saying it is the only way they can expect to achieve results.

Rosselló explained that if Puerto Rico is not considered in federal healthcare programs, it would represent a $1.3 billion loss, which would disrupt the local healthcare system. Thus, he called for “sustainable treatment” for the island, to be included in every federal legislation on the matter, and to address the problem with the “SCHIP cliff” (State Children’s Health Insurance Program funds to be awarded in September).

“Not doing so will cause a bigger problem for the federal government and the states,” said Rosselló, referring to the health cost represented by Puerto Ricans in the diaspora.

Similarly, he stressed that if the island is not included in the federal tax reform, there would be a direct impact on the local treasury and local economy. Therefore, the message should be to “protect Puerto Rico’s competitive advantage,” emphasize that this is not a financial rescue, or bailout, but “structural reform,” and to consider temporary alternatives that are in accordance with the fiscal plan.

Regarding the Promesa Congressional Task Force’s healthcare-, energy- and tax policy-related recommendations, the governor urged Congress to approve these. “If not, it would be the federal Congress that is in violation of Promesa,” he said.

The meeting drew up a work agenda for a second meeting on Aug. 30 to determine how the three visits to the U.S. capital will be carried out next month. The visits will take place Sept. 4-8, 11-15 and 18-22.

The group would have a “recapitulation meeting” Sept. 16, ahead of the third visit, and on the 29th of that month there will be a second call to participate on the initiative.

The group will have a “recapitulation meeting” Sept. 16 ahead of its third trip, and on Sept. 29, there will be a second call to participate in the initiative.

Plenty of recommendations

During the meeting, which lasted two hours, the members of the Front for Puerto Rico made a series of recommendations, as well as a call to the fiscal control board to join in their requests before Congress.

Senate PDP leader Eduardo Bhatia recommended that journalists and the public be given access to the “data rooms” created for creditors so the fiscal numbers the government is dealing with are known. He also called for putting aside the island’s political status issue while the group lobbies for parity and giving transparency to the process.

Gov. Rosselló responded that the status issue would be kept out of the group’s discussions.
For his part, former Gov. Acevedo Vilá suggested including the grievance to the Congress and federal government that they are also responsible for the island’s economic crisis.

“Let it be clear that the crisis in Puerto Rico is a shared responsibility. The United States has a responsibility for the crisis,” Acevedo Vilá said during the meeting. “I think you [the governor] and your representative [before the board, Christian Sobrino] have to tell the board that they are going to fail if they do not get Congress to act,” he stressed. “It is sad to say it is possible that those seven [members of the fiscal board] will be listened to more than all of us in Congress.”

The PDP President Ferrer recommended that a medium- and long-term agenda, not only until Sept. 30, should be established, and asked for matters of public policy on which everyone agrees to be included.

Cidre also suggested including in the talks executives of foreign companies in Puerto Rico, which represent 33% of Treasury’s revenue and make it clear to Congress that Puerto Rico does pay federal taxes.

The president of the Puerto Rico Bar Association, Alejandro Torres, asked it be reiterated that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens who do not have the same rights as those living in the states and is  a “human rights” issue.

Although not everyone present made a statement, those who did so made themselves available to the governor to collaborate however possible with the group, with their contacts, knowledge and participation.

Recuperado de: http://caribbeanbusiness.com/over-70-leaders-join-first-frente-por-puerto-rico-meeting-to-lobby-us-congress/

Puerto Rico investment Summit otorga beca a estudiantes destacados

Por: Metro Puerto Rico

El Puerto Rico Investment Summit (PRIS), que celebra este año su quinta edición, anunció la otorgación de siete becas a estudiantes destacados en diversos campos, desde ciencias, ingeniería, finanzas, hasta el desarrollo de aplicaciones para teléfonos móviles.

Brenda González, presidenta de la conferencia de inversión de mayor trayectoria y proyección en el Caribe – el Puerto Rico Investment Summit – expresó en una comunicación escrita que “es el quinto año que llevamos a cabo el Puerto Rico Investment Summit, para destacar los beneficios de Puerto Rico de las Leyes 20, 22 (Act 20/22) y otros incentivos para negocios. Hemos seleccionado a un grupo de estudiantes destacados por sus méritos, logros y reconocimientos. Ofrecer estas becas a estudiantes sobresalientes, es reconocer nuestro talento y apoyarlo. Estos jóvenes serán nuestros futuros profesionales, empresarios e inversionistas”.

El valor de las becas asciende a un total de $10,500 que serán distribuidas entre los siete estudiantes seleccionados. La beca cubre el acceso a los dos días del evento y asistir a las conferencias. Entre los recipientes de la beca, se encuentra el joven estudiante Sergio Mattei ganador local de “Imagine Cup” que desarrolló la aplicación Taleship, que sirve para el desarrollo de historias colaborativas que integra a las personas a nivel global. La joven Rocío del Mar Avilés, ganadora del Premio Especial de Habilidad y Creatividad en la Investigación Científica, que otorga la Asociación China para la Ciencia y Tecnología. Igualmente, varios jóvenes universitarios tendrán la oportunidad de recibir la beca.

Por otro lado, González compartió que entre los conferenciantes confirmados este año para el Puerto Rico Investment Summit, se encuentra el orador y autor internacional, Johnny Wimbrey, que recientemente escogió la Isla como su destino de negocios, Luis Fortuño, ex gobernador de PR, bajo su administración se creó el conjunto de leyes que se conocen como Act 20/22; el principal oficial ejecutivo de Putnam Bridge, Nicholas Prouty y el presidente de Lufthansa Technik en Puerto Rico, Pat Foley, entre otros. El PRIS, se realizará el lunes 9 y martes 10 de octubre en el Centro de Convenciones de Puerto Rico desde las 8:00 de la mañana hasta las 5:00 p.m.

El Puerto Rico Investment Summit es un evento privado, organizado por Adworks Corp., una firma de comunicaciones nativa con más de veinte años de servicio en Puerto Rico.

Recuperado de: https://www.metro.pr/pr/noticias/2017/08/21/puerto-rico-investment-summit-otorga-beca-a-estudiantes-destacados.html

Presentan esfuerzo de inversión que representaría má de medio billón en compras

Por: Metro Puerto Rico

La comisionada residente, Jenniffer González Colón, junto a miembros del Concilio para el Desarrollo del Suplidor Minoritario de Puerto Rico (PRMSDC, por sus siglas en inglés), presentaron un nuevo modelo económico enfocado en las compras a suplidores minoritarios certificados, por parte de multinacionales, en áreas de desventaja económica. 

Este modelo pudiera traducirse en medio billón de dólares adicionales en compras a suplidores minoritarios certificados en Puerto Rico, $82 millones en nuevos salarios, 1,647 nuevos empleos y $15 millones en ingresos al gobierno local, sumado a un efecto multiplicador de $1.6 billones para la isla, según el estudio de viabilidad que hizo la Universidad Interamericana.

“Puerto Rico tiene que diversificar y fortalecer la oferta de productos. Con la implementación de este modelo, convertiríamos nuestra desventaja económica en una oportunidad de crecimiento que reforzaría al sector privado al impulsar la inversión a suplidores minoritarios certificados. Esto impulsaría las compras a suplidores minoritarios, aumentará empleos generados por este concepto, generaría ingresos al gobierno de $15 millones y tendría efecto multiplicador en la economía”, expresó González Colón.

La propuesta se basaría en la declaración federal de Puerto Rico como un Distressed Industrial Zones (DIZ) para, mediante incentivos, poder promover la compra corporativa a suplidores minoritarios certificados.  

Los requisitos para poder ser clasificados bajo esta zona incluyen: tener una tasa de desempleo de más de un 7%; estar administrado por un ente fiscal; tener dos años consecutivos sin crecimiento económico; o ser víctima de algún desastre natural. Bajo estos criterios, Puerto Rico cumpliría con 3 de 4 requisitos.

Bajo esta clasificación, se trataría al DIZ igual que el modelo de zona de libre comercio o FTZ, por sus siglas en inglés; el máximo en la tasa de impuesto a corporaciones sería de 4%; exención contributiva de un 85% en dividiendo pagados a dueños de corporaciones; las compañías tendrían como requisito que el 25% de sus compras sean suplidores minoritarios certificados de zonas en desventaja económicas.

Se conocería a este concepto como Supplier Diversity Economic Model (SuDEM).

El presidente de la Junta del Concilio para el Desarrollo del Suplidor Minoritario de Puerto Rico, José Ríos Nieves, explicó que Supplier Diversity Economic Model (SuDEM) es un modelo diferente porque está enfocado en el desarrollo de los suplidores, para que sean las multinacionales del futuro.

SuDEM surgió tras un minucioso proceso de análisis de la organización en conjunto con la facultad de Administración de Empresas del Recinto de Bayamón de la Universidad Interamericana, sobre las opciones para crear un dínamo que marcara la diferencia y que fuese replicable. 

“Así surgió este modelo que, con el respaldo del Congreso de los Estados Unidos, pudiese representar, medio billón adicional en compras a suplidores minoritarios certificados, $82 millones en nuevos salarios, 1,647 nuevos empleos y $15 millones en impuestos e ingresos al gobierno local. Más aún, el fortalecimiento de nuestros suplidores minoritarios produciría un efecto multiplicador de $1.6 billones para la isla”, aseguró Ríos.

“El trabajo en equipo del Concilio para el Desarrollo del Suplidor Minoritario de Puerto Rico y la Facultad de la Administración de Empresas del Recinto de Bayamón de la Universidad Interamericana, han logrado este junte. Desde septiembre del año pasado, me incorporé para trabajar junto a ellos los detalles técnicos de esta propuesta para poder radicar esta medida en el Congreso. Agradezco el respaldo y colaboración de este Clúster Económico a favor de Puerto Rico. Hoy podemos anunciar el resultado de meses de trabajo, que estamos listos a radicar una vez reanude las funciones en el Congreso. Tenemos que diversificar la economía de Puerto Rico y a su vez ser más agresivos y competitivos en la venta y suplido de productos al propio sector privado y de manufactura. Esta propuesta encamina a la isla en la dirección correcta. El modelo que presentamos hoy enlaza perfectamente a Puerto Rico como HUB de carga, tránsito y creación de rutas aéreas que promuevan la actividad económica en nuestros puertos, como almacenes y municipios”, expresó la comisionada residente.

“Hace 35 años se fundó el Concilio para el Desarrollo del Suplidor Minoritario de Puerto Rico (PRMSDC, por sus siglas en inglés), con la meta de fortalecer las comunidades, por medio de un programa de diversidad de suplidores. El Concilio, uno de los 23 en la Nación, promueve oportunidades de negocios para empresas minoritarias certificadas de todos los tamaños, que se conectan con 1,750 corporaciones en Estados Unidos y 21 empresas multinacionales establecidas en la isla, con un poder de compra de alrededor de $5 billones. De esos, les compran medio billón a suplidores minoritarios certificados.  Nuestro sistema de trabajo ha resultado exitoso, por lo que nos dispusimos a magnificar nuestros esfuerzos para lograr un impacto aún mayor, que redunde en fortalecer la economía de Puerto Rico y la de cualquiera otro de los territorios elegibles”, explicó Diego Martin director del PRMSDC.

Un suplidor se certifica como minoritario, al ser un negocio con al menos un 51% de sus dueños ciudadanos americanos asiáticos, negros, hispanos o nativos americanos. 

“Hoy me honra representar a los más de 500 suplidores minoritarios certificados en Puerto Rico. La empresa que lidero es ejemplo de la transformación que pueden lograr las empresas minoritarias, gracias al compromiso que tienen los socios corporativos del PRMSDC, quienes impulsan los programas de diversidad de suplidores”, expresó Luis David Soto, presidente de la Junta de Directores Mentor Technical Group, que también exporta servicios a las matrices de dichos socios corporativos.

Recuperado de: https://www.metro.pr/pr/noticias/2017/08/20/presentan-esfuerzo-inversion-representaria-mas-medio-billon-compras.html

Women & the Economy: Changing the rules of the game.

Alongside technological, demographic and other cultural changes, women have experienced shifts and adjustments in their presence in various aspects of the Puerto Rico economy.

However, this evolution of progress has been uneven. While women are experiencing more control over their finances and have seen an exponential increase in their presence in the labor force, social constructs still present obstacles and marketing strategies show outdated views in addressing women as consumers.

Recent estimates put Puerto Rico’s population at 3.4 million, of which women represent the majority at 52.4%. While women from the age groups 15-19 and 20-24 represent the largest categories with about 132,000 each, the third-largest age group is women 45-49, representing almost 130,000.

In line with the aging of Puerto Rico’s population, women from the age groups 15 to 64 maintain similar numbers at an average of about 130,000 for each age group, but when it comes to children, the number of girls is lower, at an average of 110,000. When going to the opposite side of the spectrum, women 65 and older add up to 65,000.

Approaching financial freedom

When it comes to percentages, the labor force now more closely resembles the makeup of the general population. Labor Department statistics show a labor force of 2.8 million for the past year, of which women also represent the majority at 53%. This is the result of incremental changes in the workforce, since 70% of the jobs created from the 1970s on, when the female participation rate was at 28%, have been occupied by women.

While the number of women who are income earners has seen an exponential increase, economist Marta Quiñones argues that the number of women who are in control of their finances has taken a slower course, although she pointed out that cultural changes have led to more women managing their finances.

On the other hand, the economist indicated that these changes are not always voluntary since many women control the management of the household finances because they become the single head of household. However, in general, Quiñones argued that “women are seizing the space.”

Although women have increased their footprint in the labor force, she explained that once the job is attained, more difficulties are faced as they try to climb the economic ladder. Some of these challenges are related to our society seeing childrearing as a woman’s job, as opposed to a responsibility equally shared by both parents.

“We say it in the elections. Many women who reach positions of power had to face questions on how could they leave their husbands or kids alone. The same was not questioned of men,” Quiñones said.

Jumping through the hurdles

To improve this situation, the economist indicated there is a need for policy changes when it comes to maternity and paternity leave, as well as childcare centers.

Maternity leave, Quiñones argues, “is important for the health of the mother and child.” She went on, “In countries where the economy is working well, they give a whole year for maternity [leave] and the economy has not been affected.”

She was referring to Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden, where they provide 56 and 55 weeks of maternity leave, respectively. According to Factly, a journalism and public information website, the longest maternity leave period comes from Croatia at 58 weeks. Meanwhile, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada, among other countries, provide a year of maternity leave.

Another thing to point out about parental leave in various European countries is that they also provide paternity leave.

In the United States, maternity leave is not regulated at the federal level, but in Puerto Rico, eight weeks is legally mandated. The president of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, has argued that the U.S. should implement a better maternity leave and childcare policy. Her suggestions came after the latest IMF report that gives a less-than-stellar review of the U.S. economy.

Quiñones also believes parents need more accessible childcare options. “The problem in Puerto Rico is that we don’t have [public] childcare centers. We pay a lot to the State and the State keeps cutting the benefits we see,” she said. When using the term “accessible,” the economist is also referring to childcare centers that offer a broader schedule that can serve parents who work outside the traditional 9-to-5 schedule.

Another hurdle women face, argued Francis Ríos, founder of Women Who Lead and Ríos Enterprises, is there is a preconceived notion, or gender bias, for certain professions. Through her company, which emphasizes promoting business growth through improving the inclusion of women, Ríos has conducted various studies, including measuring gender bias in children.

Echoing other findings, Ríos saw that kids are geared, whether intentionally or unintentionally, from a very young age, to perceive certain careers as inherently male or inherently female. “Boys and girls are raised differently, tainted with stereotypes we carry from our own childhood, and that is part of what prevents more women [from working] in top management,” she said.

Gender pay gap, poverty, education

As in many other countries, there is a gender pay gap in Puerto Rico. The median income for men in Puerto Rico is $32,000 a year, with women lagging behind at $29,000. However, the difference in these numbers is not just because of a pay gap in the same types of jobs, but also because of the types of careers that include more women.

The highest-paying jobs in Puerto Rico, according to Data USA, are environmental engineers, physicians and surgeons, architectural and engineer managers, chemical engineers, and training and development managers. The 2016 Labor Force Participation statistics show women have been the predominant gender in government, teaching, health technicians, and technical, sales and administrative support.

Furthermore, women professionals are a burgeoning group in managerial and professional specialty positions, but men are the predominant gender in the management, administrator and executive sector. Likewise, women represent only 20% of the island’s self-employed sector.

Perhaps, more than in previous statistics, the data relating to poverty on the island shows a more polarized image of income disparity. According to Data USA, 46% of Puerto Rico’s population lives below poverty levels and the largest subgroup is women ages 25 to 34. The second-largest subgroup is women ages 45 to 54 and the third group is women 35 to 44.

An important factor to point out is that more women are pursuing postsecondary studies, which has helped shift the professional areas that are open to women. In the 1970s, only 21% of employed women had a year or more in a higher education institution, according to the Puerto Rico Labor Department. By the 1990s, the percentage of employed women who had attended at least one year of college or university had jumped to 56% and, by 2013, the number had reached 74%.

Currently, the Education Council reports that 58% of students in a higher education institution on the island are women, or a total of 133,000. Over 18,000 of these female students are pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees.

To improve the gender composition in corporations, Ríos said companies need to take a proactive approach in implementing more inclusion.

Once on the job, she said men and women often follow different ways of connecting professionally, with men being more open to networking outside of working hours and in casual settings. “Employers need to understand that they have to respect both styles. What they have to do is not focus on the process but the results,” she noted. In terms of employees, Ríos said “men tend to be more assertive” in voicing their opinions and results, while women are more vocal about the amount of work that was put into a task.

Approaching female consumers

Various research has shown inconsistencies and shortcomings when addressing women as consumers. According to the W Report, produced by Ríos Enterprises, women are in charge of 75% of the buying decisions for a household, but 89% of them said they do not feel represented by companies’ marketing campaigns.

In her opinion, Ríos said marketing campaigns often show outdated or inappropriate stereotypes. However, women “want to see themselves in advertising as they are. They are also tired of being used as sexual objects. Actually, 88% of women polled said the advertising campaigns are not good examples for their daughters.”

The study, titled “Sheconomy” by the advertising agency Arteaga & Arteaga, showed similar results in the level of dissatisfaction among women and the percentage of household purchases that are done by women. The study found that marketing efforts aimed at women put too much focus on age groups and tend to appeal to their responsibilities at home and work. For example, many appeal too much to women in their roles as homemakers and mothers, and not enough on their other interests, which could be sports, health and general wellness.

The study suggests advertising campaigns should identify women’s “points of passion” and better connect with women through those points.

This disconnect with women means the success of these brands is due to external factors such as price, but since no brand loyalty is created, consumers can easily change to another brand for either convenience or a better personal connection.

Promoting Entrepreneurship Among Women

While statistics show women may be having a difficult time crossing over the poverty line, Fundación Sila M. Calderón is betting on entrepreneurship to help more women achieve financial stability.

“Our mission is to reduce poverty and inequality, and promote the role of women in Puerto Rico, and we are doing it,” said former Gov. Sila M. Calderón, who chairs the board of her eponymous foundation.

In line with her affirmation, this past Saturday, the foundation celebrated the graduation of 40 women from the Business Development for Women Program and 36 men and women from the Business Formation for Young Adults Program.

These programs comprised 20 workshops on many aspects of creating and developing a business. Since their establishment in 2009, Centro Para Puerto Rico data show that the programs have led to the creation or development of 550 small businesses islandwide. The direct job creation for this same period was 990 jobs.

Calderón also pointed out that while the workshops are focused on specific points, the programs have had an impact, through their participants, on 76 municipalities, with the exception of Vieques and Culebra. For this year, participants came from 35 municipalities, including, San Juan, Fajardo, Cabo Rojo, Bayamón and Mayagüez.

Participant Liz Cotto said that after going through the young adults program, “one gets more hope, more confidence in one’s self,” while fellow participant Wanda Torres noted that the women’s program helped give her business proper structure. Cotto is in the process of acquiring a food truck that specializes in coffee, pastries and related products, while Torres is the owner of Janillon, a company that produces soaps, lotions and essential oils.

One of the factors Calderón emphasized is that the businesses created by the participants belong in the formal economy, not just for the importance of paying taxes, but also because to grow a small business, the proper permits are required. On the other hand, the former governor argued that the permits system in Puerto Rico needs improvements. This is essential because it is businesses that help move the economy forward.

“In moments when the economy needs to grow, and I believe [Gov. Ricardo Rosselló] is doing a great effort in this [matter], permits need to be accelerated for all businesses, big businesses, midsize and small, because they are the ones that are growing the economy,” Calderón said.

Aside from the educational programs, the foundation is also developing a new project to help fund more applicants. The new program would consist of getting established businesses or individuals to adopt a group of incipient entrepreneurs by pledging $3,000 to $20,000 each. This money would go toward training and other assistance provided by the foundation.

Identifying funds for these initiatives, especially in times of crisis, the former governor explained, is about being able to tap into many resources. In the case of the foundation, Calderón explained, “first, we go to the private sector, corporations and individuals of means that make annual donations.” Additionally, the foundation seeks funding from the local and federal government and from other nonprofit organizations. However, not all funding comes from donations or procurements, because the Fundación Sila M. Calderón also holds many fundraising events.

Despite the continuous efforts to attract more resources, the former governor explained that the island’s economic crisis has had an impact on the foundation. With that in mind, Calderón said she would like to see more cooperation from the private sector to help the foundation bring in more participants.

Recuperado de: http://caribbeanbusiness.com/women-the-economy-changing-the-rules-of-the-game/

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