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Editorial & Column


A Call To Action


June 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Get involved now, or suffer the consequences later. That’s our call to every single CARIBBEAN BUSINESS reader.

Our free-enterprise system is under assault by a bunch of legislators, of the three parties, the vast majority of whom have never owned or managed a business. By and large, their only experience at job creation has been requesting larger budgets for their legislative offices to hire more staff with our tax dollars.

Yet these people, faced with mounting criticism over their ineptitude and irresponsibility as legislators, pretend to garner populist, working-class support in an election year with a series of proposed laws that will have the effect of jacking up the already-exorbitant cost of doing business in Puerto Rico. Yet, if passed, all these proposed laws would do is force businesses to stop growing or shut down, leaving thousands of current and potential employees on the street.

These bills aren’t just antibusiness. They are antijobs. And they must be stopped—NOW!

To help you do so, our front-page story today provides a convenient "Angry Voter User’s Manual," if you will. We identify for you the bills, their numbers and authors, and the legislative committees to which they have been referred, as well as the names, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail addresses of key legislators and committee staff, to make it easier for you to voice your opinion.

Last week, CARIBBEAN BUSINESS sounded the alarm on two of the most outrageous bills. The antitrust bill would virtually put an end to any new business expansion on the island. Government bureaucrats would be able to learn the expansion plans not only of big companies but also of small and midsize businesses, and make that information public. Your competitors, or anyone else, including government bureaucrats, would be able to stop your business expansion. Meanwhile, the proposed amendments to the minimum-age law would have the secretary of labor examining the books of individual companies and determining the adequate wages, fringe benefits, and compensation company by company.

Today, we bring you the rest of the avalanche, including bills to expand fringe benefits for workers (which are already greater than in any jurisdiction in the States), limit the operating hours of tourist facilities, and impose a withholding tax on foreign loans that would make local financing more expensive for all businesses, plus a whole bunch of other bills damaging to businesses and ultimately to workers, who will be left unemployed if our Legislature insists on continuing to make it more difficult and even impossible for businesses to operate in Puerto Rico.

If these bills pass, not only will the private sector be strangled with more regulations and higher operating costs, but government bureaucrats will actually be controlling and running your business. Puerto Rico’s competitive ability to attract outside investment or to develop local business start-ups and expansions will be reduced to nil. The unemployment rate will go through the roof, and the island’s economic development will be halted. These proposed laws are crazy.

To their credit, the Chamber of Commerce and no fewer than a dozen affiliated business organizations, last week issued a stern warning to the Legislature not to rush through the approval of these bills, most of which have had no analysis, no input from business groups, and no public hearings.

They also issued a call, which we echo today, to every businessperson on the island to let his or her voice be heard. Organizations themselves don’t vote. You do; so get involved. Otherwise, the Legislature might approve these bills in executive session—i.e., behind closed doors—at the last minute and without public discussion.

For too long, businesses in Puerto Rico have been used as a punching bag by every group seeking to redress a grievance and by politicians seeking to advance their political careers. It’s time to stop that. Businesses are the ones that create jobs and propel the island’s economic development. It’s high time that we be heard, not just as associations but also as individuals.

Every call, letter, fax, and e-mail will count. We’ve told you whom to contact and how. The rest is up to you.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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