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Acevedo Vila Eyes Services Economy Rossello Goes On-Line Calderon Wont Run In N.Y.
Acevedo Vila Eyes Services Economy
By Kristin Roberts
August 18, 2003
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Aug 18 (Reuters) - From financing business in the Dominican Republic to offering consulting services in Cuba, a main contender for Puerto Rico's governor's mansion on Monday proposed an economic agenda to break the island's dependence on U.S. manufacturing.
Anibal Acevedo-Vila, resident commissioner of Puerto Rico and gubernatorial candidate for the ruling Popular Democratic Party, said the Commonwealth should be making moves to become the Caribbean's financial center and the business link between the United States and Latin America.
He argued in an interview that Puerto Rico's economy should be shifted away from its reliance on the manufacturing sector, which primarily makes products that go to the United States, to one focused on exporting services to Latin America.
"When I become governor, I can tell you that all the government economic development agencies are going to begin looking at things that way," said Acevedo-Vila, who as resident commissioner is the island's nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress.
He said Puerto Rico is in the best position among nations to reach both the North and South American markets with equal ease, thanks to a work force that is highly skilled and bilingual operating in strongly regulated U.S. industries.
Puerto Rico's lawyers, accountants and engineers, for example, should be ready to rush into Cuba when that market opens to cash in as consultants for a country that he says will be in need of major infrastructure and business improvements.
The candidate also said the Commonwealth should begin debating the merits of offering financial assistance to Puerto Rican businesses seeking money to open low-skilled manufacturing ventures elsewhere, so long as the high-skilled service part of the operation remains on the island.
"Manufacturing is important, but we can no longer compete cheaply. That doesn't mean there isn't an opportunity," he said. "Give support to a Puerto Rican businessperson who is going to open a manufacturing plant in the Dominican Republic, but tell that person that the accountants and lawyers must be based here."
"That's the future," he said. "Nobody in government thinks like that."
Puerto Rico's economy was built on manufacturing by design. But over the past few years, amid U.S. economic weakness and the phase-out of federal tax incentives, the island's manufacturing industry has lost 26,000 jobs.
Acevedo-Vila, who formally announced his candidacy about two weeks ago, outlined priorities, including reducing the 12 percent unemployment rate and reforming the tax system.
While saying he has not had time to formalize an economic platform or discuss bond proposals, Acevedo-Vila plans to meet with officials at the Government Development Bank, Puerto Rico's fiscal agent, to discuss whether the Commonwealth may be missing opportunities to refinance debt.
Rossellos Campaign Committee Launches Internet Website
By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News
August 19, 2003
Rossello 2004 Committee Chairman Juan R. Melecio and campaign director Frances Rodriguez announced the launching of a website and a toll free number to boost their fundraising efforts for the campaign of former Gov. Pedro Rossello, who in November will face New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera in a primary to become the official NPP gubernatorial candidate for 2004.
"By using Internet technology, once again Rossello makes history by becoming the first candidate in Puerto Rico to use the immediacy and efficiency of the Internet to incorporate it in his campaign efforts," Melecio said during a press conference Tuesday at the committee headquarters in Hato Rey.
Internet users may access the website at www.rossello.com to contribute to the campaign, learn of the latest press releases regarding Rossello, as well as his upcoming fundraising events and photo galleries.
Rodriguez added that the website contains a suggestion box for everyone who may want to share their ideas with the Rossellos team in charge of drafting his campaign platform.
"These efforts will allow us to continue conveying the message of hope and justice that the people need," Rodriguez said.
The campaign director noted that those without Internet access may dial 1-800-EL CAMBIO to make their contributions which, by law, shouldnt exceed $500 per person.
Rodriguez said both fundraising methods have been based on a secure system to protect credit information from hackers and ensure that all contributions made to the committee are legal.
Puerto Rico Governor Will Not Run In New York
By Kristin Roberts
August 20, 2003
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Puerto Rico Gov. Sila Calderon said on Wednesday she would not run for office in New York, squashing rumors that surfaced after her surprise announcement that she would not seek a second term.
"I don't think I want to run for office because I'm leaving office to finish the political aspect of my life," she said in an interview. "I've never seen myself as a politician."
But she did not rule out leaving Puerto Rico for work in New York. Calderon visits the city, home to about 800,000 Puerto Ricans, frequently. Local commentators and politicians say the popular governor is considering buying an apartment in the city, but she has not confirmed that.
"I am available to get involved in different areas where I could help, particularly in New York. I love New York," Calderon said. "I have many friends that I know through government and business that I would love to collaborate with."
Calderon, the first woman governor of the U.S. territory, announced in May that she would not run again, offering no details on her next move and surprising her staff and some of her close aides.
Many political analysts said she could have won reelection.
In her first year in office, Calderon pulled the brakes on millions in public works projects as her administration uncovered what she says were "hidden debts" at the Government Development Bank left over from the previous governor's administration.
Hector Mendez, now president of the bank, which acts as fiscal agent to Puerto Rico's government, said total debt stood at 18 percent of revenue when Calderon's administration started. Now, the commonwealth's total debt stands at 14 percent, below the constitutional limit of 15 percent of the average of two years' revenue.
While winning praise from investors, who credit her with cleaning up a government once seen as corrupt, Calderon is not without critics. Puerto Rico's unemployment rate remains a high 12 percent - roughly double the U.S. jobless rate. What's more, many residents say they saw more public works projects under the administration of former Gov. Pedro Rossello, who is running for governor again.
By the end of her term, the Calderon said she expects to have $7 billion in projects either completed or underway. Since 2001, her administration has overseen $3.7 billion in infrastructure and improvement projects and by December she said she expects that number to have risen to $5.7 billion.