Pedro Pierluisi

Puerto Rico has endured several challenging years marked by hurricanes and earthquakes. Despite these adversities, the island has persisted in advancing, demonstrating commendable growth rates. What role has the governor played in steering the island toward the promised path of economic growth?

Puerto Rico has faced extraordinary challenges in the past years. In 2017, we were hit hard by Hurricane Maria, which was devastating. Then, at the beginning of 2020, we experienced some earthquakes in the south of the island. In September 2022, Hurricane Fiona, while not as strong as Maria, still brought a significant amount of rain and affected us. And, as if all of that wasn’t enough, we also had to contend with the ongoing pandemic. These were the traumatic challenges we encountered.

When I arrived, despite being in the middle of the pandemic, we were only just beginning to receive vaccines, like all other American territories. I must say that, collectively, Puerto Rico performed admirably in terms of vaccine distribution and implementing protective measures.

Nowadays, our tourism sector is booming, and the numbers speak for themselves. Additionally, our manufacturing sector has shown remarkable resilience, even in the face of challenges like the pandemic. 

It is also experiencing growth. Our manufacturing industry is highly sophisticated, with Puerto Rico hosting 12 of the top 20 biopharma companies and 7 of the top 10 medical device manufacturers in the world.

Our government has actively promoted these two sectors. We have strategically utilized available federal funds to aid in our recovery from the pandemic. For instance, we have doubled the budget of Discover Puerto Rico, a marketing organization dedicated to showcasing all that our island has to offer.

 This effort has proven highly effective in highlighting not only our natural beauty but also our rich culture, gastronomy, and way of life. Our campaign, titled “Live Puerto Rico,” invites visitors to experience life on our island firsthand, and it has yielded significant results.

Furthermore, our government has emerged from a turbulent past, marked by the resignation of the governor Ricardo Rossello in 2019 amidst massive protests. One of the hallmarks of my administration over these past three years has been the stability we have achieved in our government.

Additionally, we have fostered a strong working relationship with the federal government, which is crucial as we continue to rebuild our infrastructure. We have accessed funds from various sources, including FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Federal Agricultural Administration. These funds play a pivotal role in our ongoing efforts to enhance and revitalize our communities.

Another notable development in Puerto Rico is the widespread installation of solar systems, often accompanied by battery storage solutions, across the island. Remarkably, we rank among the top five jurisdictions in the United States in terms of the number of solar systems deployed. 

Currently, approximately 9 % of the energy in Puerto Rico is generated through these solar systems. Furthermore, a significant portion of these installations includes battery capacity, enhancing resilience and reliability. To further reinforce our energy infrastructure we are also implementing industrial-scale batteries at our generating plants.

You, as governor, are a person interested in tourism and in fact you came to support Puerto Rico at the FITUR fair in Madrid last january. What plans are there to attract more tourists to the island in the coming years?

As an island destination, direct and non-stop flights are crucial. While we currently have direct flights from several metropolitan areas in the United States, there’s a gap in connectivity from cities outside the U.S. Consequently, our focus is on expanding flight services, particularly with countries like Spain.

This year, we’ve made significant progress towards establishing daily year-round flights, notably with Iberia from Madrid. Madrid has emerged as a vital gateway for european tourists traveling to Puerto Rico. However, we’re actively working to reinstate direct flight services from London and Frankfurt, which were previously available and would be highly advantageous.

Additionally, we’ve strengthened our connections with Colombia, which is rapidly becoming a key player in our tourism industry. We now offer flights to and from Bogotá and Medellín.

While direct flights to Cancun are already available, we are eagerly exploring the possibility of establishing direct routes to San Juan from Mexico City. Our objective is to diversify our tourist offer.

Currently, 95% of our tourism is from the United States. However, we’re actively seeking to increase our international visitor base to ensure broader recognition. We want Puerto Rico to be celebrated worldwide, not remain a hidden gem.

We’re confident that European visitors, in particular, would appreciate what Puerto Rico has to offer, given its rich historical significance and cultural heritage.

Visiting San Juan should be an enriching experience for anyone from Europe. By American standards, it’s ancient, boasting a history that spans 500 years. There’s nothing quite like it in the United States, with only a few comparable sites in Latin America. This is a point I consistently emphasize.Furthermore, Puerto Rico offers a truly authentic culture.

And one thing about tourism is that this is like he first day with someone who may end up doing business with you. Someone is coming to Puerto Rico and we know they will love it. And this individual might say, I would like to buy property here. 

We have much to offer beyond our natural resources. Despite being a small island, we boast bioluminescent bays and a tropical forest, the only one in the United States

So we know it is like the entry point. So tourism is more than just a pleasure and can be the beginning of a business relationship

What can Puerto Rico offer in the field of medical tourism?

There is significant potential here. We have not yet reached the place where we should be. We welcome many people from the Antilles who come to Puerto Rico to receive their medical treatment. Indeed, our doctors are highly trained, with many having received their training in the United States. Additionally, Puerto Rico boasts excellent medical schools.

What are the tax policies that Puerto Rico offers to investors?

We have our own taxation system, which allows us to determine the industries we wish to support. Currently, we prioritize incentivizing manufacturers to engage in export services, among other sectors. The predominant tax rate for companies in this sector is 4%, although it may be lower for the manufacturing sector.

Our rates are highly favorable, comparing well with foreign tax systems such as those in Ireland and Singapore, and they are lower than those in the United States. This is why many companies choose to do business in Puerto Rico, spanning both the manufacturing and service sectors, with a significant focus on technology. 

Additionally, some companies operate in fields like legal and accounting services. We are committed to further promoting this type of business. Furthermore, our population is well-educated; per capita, we graduate more engineers than any other location in the United States.

Puerto Rico is excelling notably in the realm of public-private partnerships (P3s). We have achieved significant success in establishing and managing P3s, as evidenced by the operation of our main international airport and highways under this model. 

Additionally, the ferry system connecting Vieques and Culebra islands with the mainland is efficiently managed through a P3 arrangement. Recently, we finalized a partnership agreement with Global Ports for the San Juan Cruz Port, marking another milestone in our P3 initiatives aimed at enhancing tourism experiences in the Bay of San Juan.

You have recently declared your candidacy seeking re-election within the New Progressive Party (PNP). What are your plans to continue contributing to Puerto Rico if you win the election?”

My primary message or proposal to the people of Puerto Rico is that we should continue along the growth trajectory that we have witnessed over the past three years. We must persist in the ongoing reconstruction efforts that have taken place like never before during this period, while also continuing to incentivize our workforce with improved wages in both the private and public sectors, as we have successfully done in recent years.

The success that Puerto Rico has achieved over the past three years is undeniable, with consistent economic growth, the lowest unemployment rate in our history at 5.7%, and the creation of 124,000 new jobs in an economy with a total of 1.1 million jobs.

How can Puerto Rico evolve into a regional development hub, fostering closer economic integration between the continental United States and itself?

Spanish banks ventured into Puerto Rico to conduct business before establishing affiliates on the US mainland. Puerto Rico served as their launching pad or entry point into the US market. Examples of these banks include Santander Bank and BBV Banco Bilbao Vizcaya.

For a company in Latin America, this is an ideal destination to learn how to conduct business under U.S. law. Puerto Rico can serve as an excellent location for U.S. companies engaging in business in Latin America to establish their hub or marketing division. Puerto Ricans are adept at collaborating with counterparts from Latin America while also being familiar with working with mainland U.S. entities.

We are witnessing U.S. companies establishing their marketing organizations in Puerto Rico, such as Honeywell, for instance. Call centers are another example, and now we are seeing back offices being established as well.

Salaries in Puerto Rico are lower than in the United States, which is not ideal, but it provides us with advantages.

What is your opinion on the possibility of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state of the United States?

The process by which territories have historically gained admission to the United States has typically involved congressional legislation. Achieving this status requires a majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, followed by the president’s signature on the admission agreement. 

This aligns with the desires of the majority of Puerto Ricans. Consequently, Congress must now reach consensus on this matter, which has yet to occur, as Puerto Ricans have not been granted the opportunity to vote on the issue. We await action from Congress.

We aspire to fully engage in the political processes of the United States, including voting for the president and members of Congress. Representation in Congress is essential for Puerto Rico, as decisions affecting us are made in Washington without direct representation. 

What can Puerto Rico offer companies that choose to establish themselves on the island?

In the realm of manufacturing, Puerto Rico enjoys global recognition for its skilled workforce and adeptness in optimizing manufacturing processes. This process is exemplified by the pharmaceutical companies situated on the island. Puerto Rican engineers hold esteemed reputations worldwide, attracting major US aeronautical firms to establish their product design operations here. 

Additionally, in the tourism sector, Puerto Rico guarantees both safety and immersion in the vibrant Puerto Rican lifestyle.

Furthermore, the technology sector is experiencing exponential growth, positioning us as highly competitive from an investment perspective.

We are steadfast in our commitment to further promoting Puerto Rico’s strengths and opportunities.