17 Mar Open Letter to President Donald Trump and Congress of the United States on Importance of better Infrastructure Development and Foreign Assistance Reform for Puerto Rico
After more than one year with President Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office, and new developments by Congress in the area of foreign assistance, we are now calling on our federal leaders to take genuine steps to help Puerto Rico, a U.S. Territory. We are calling for efforts at modernizing the island with through improved infrastructure that will serve to bring foreign private sector investment to Puerto Rico and capitalize its potential through its extraordinary human resources. Puerto Rico’s modernization will provide a great opportunity to take the island into a new direction, and so we pledge our cooperation with and support of any effort to make Puerto Rico development a co-equal pillar of U.S. foreign policy alongside defense and the economy. After all, Puerto Rico is part of the United States.
Five months after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, the island is still facing a complex set of challenges and limitations. Rampant disease and immigration issues, lack of energy and water, and poverty hinder economic growth and crush the hopes for a better life for the families and businesses there. We understand that incompetence and corruption that were part of past administrations block opportunity; breed instability; and create environments for desperation, anxiety, and high rates of suicide. In Puerto Rico, we are like other countries – with governments striving to fight poverty and establish new initiatives, but we face daunting challenges. Now is the time to support Puerto Rico with real new infrastructure. We are beyond the time of simply providing water and food shipments and $500 deposits for residents. Instead, we need jobs and infrastructure. It is time for the people of Puerto Rico living on the island and beyond its shores to have the capacity to stand up for themselves, for our Puerto Rico.
This time of political transition for the U.S. is providing us with enormous opportunity to take a fresh, new, and balanced approach to the Congress and the President about Puerto Rico engagement. The Minority Chamber of Commerce (MCC) is open a bridge to facilitate trade, contracting, investment, employment, relocation assistance, and other strategic economic development to help Puerto Rico. In just a few weeks, on March 29, it is our pleasure to announce that MCC’s Puerto Rico HUB Business Center in the exclusive Condado district of San Juan is ready to open for business.
The approach we are taking through the opening of this facility is to emphasize programs that promote development as tools that are equal in importance to small businesses, and offer a collaborative agreement with MCC with respect to EB5 & L1A visas. Our goal is to expedite the process of stimulating new hotels, industrial parks, agricultural development, retail, and tourism spectacular site that will put the island in a unique position as the primary destination in the Caribbean.
While there are standout programs that continue to deliver real value and impact, overall the current system for managing U.S. global development efforts is outdated and, frankly, messy, with too many agencies running too many programs that lack an overall strategy. These programs are governed by a Foreign Assistance Act that was written 47 years ago and has not been reauthorized in more than 20 years. If Puerto Rico development programs are to take their place as a primary tool in the U.S. foreign policy toolkit, they must be modernized so that they may better address today’s challenges. There simply must be a strong development voice at the table when key foreign policy decisions are made. It is time to stop the flow of over $1 billion dollars to Latin America and bring it home to stabilize our own U.S. territory – and make a new history in the process.
That is why we urge you to act quickly by taking critical steps in favor of Puerto Rico that offer real assistance to address the challenges we face today on the island. We need to consolidate our programs under a strong, empowered, and capable development institution; and ensure that the U.S. government has the financial resources and professional civilian capacity to achieve our foreign policy goals to make a new Puerto Rico.
We realize that during this time of economic turmoil on the island and severe lack of infrastructure there are many pressing issues that require attention. We believe, however, that because of these challenges, elevating development as a core instrument of U.S. foreign policy — and using our precious development resources as strategically and effectively as possible for 3 million U.S. citizens there — is nothing short of essential. The American people overwhelmingly agree — a recent poll found that, even in the midst of the Puerto Rico crisis, nearly 70 percent of those surveyed agree that foreign assistance must be made more efficient in order to get greater levels of aid to the U.S. territories in need. Is time to be responsive to the wants and desires of U.S. – because Puerto Rico is part of the United States.
We urge you to act quickly, and we look forward to supporting and assisting you in this effort to operate our business center, not only by providing MCC with public funding but with open legislation in favor to Puerto Rico in the following areas:
- The Jones act
- Tax Breaks
- Investment Visa
- Contracting Puerto Rican Companies First
- Expediting the Certification Process
- Small Business Loans for economic injury with low doc and flexible credit requirement
1750 member and partner Signatories of this “Open Letter” endorse only its contents
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