Saturday, February 24, 2018

US reps reject proposed reorganization of Puerto Rico Statistics Institute

By on February 5, 2018

SAN JUAN – The executive director of the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute (PRSI), Mario Marazzi, echoed statements made Friday by several members of the U.S. Congress in rejection of the Gov. Ricardo Rosselló administration’s proposal to consolidate the entity.

Last week 15 U.S. representatives, both Republicans and Democrats, sent a letter to Dr. Nancy Potok, the chief statistician of the Office of Management and budget, and copied Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, to express their rejection of the Statistics Institute provisions contained in Reorganization Plan 1 and its enabling bills, Senate Bill 809 and House Bill 1403.

The members of Congress wrote that in the aftermath of the September hurricanes and economic hardship on the island accurate data is required and removing the independence from the PRIS’s functions could undermine the institute’s credibility.

“Amidst recent news coverage on the intention of Puerto Rico’s government to fold the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics (PRIS) into the Department of Economic Development and Commerce and allow for the Secretary to privatize PRIS’s core functions, we write to you to express concern over the announcement, and reiterate the importance of the independence of the PRIS,” the letter states. “As it relates to Puerto Rico, the need for public, independent, and unbiased data has never been more acute, particularly as Congress debates disaster supplemental legislation. We urge the inclusion of Puerto Rico in federal statistical programs and surveys carried out by the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies.”

The U.S. lawmakers further stress that the PRSI is a key ally of federal statistical agencies and say greater collaboration between the institute and the federal agencies is essential for the U.S. government to gather the same statistics on Puerto Rico that it does for the 50 states.

“We greatly appreciate these expressions and join them,” Marazzi said. “The Institute has been working for years, for example, for the economy of Puerto Rico to be included in the statistics about the economy of the United States. For this, the federal government has required us to make some improvements to the methodologies used by the Planning Board.” he explained.

“In fact, currently, we are the only entity in Puerto Rico that dedicates its own resources, including 10% of our budget, to make these improvements. For this purpose, inter-agency agreements have already been signed between the Institute and the Federal Government. It’s just a matter of being allowed to execute them. We are very concerned that the proposed reorganization will halt or postpone these important projects, which could reverse the inclusion of Puerto Rico in the economy of the United States,” the institute director added.

American Statistical Association: Don’t dismantle Puerto Rico Statistics Institute

Marazzi said he is confident that during the next few days, the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly will carefully weigh Reorganization Plan 1 and join their counterparts in Congress in stressing the importance of the PRSI.

“Likewise, we trust that in the coming days more voices will continue to unite and express themselves against the proposed reorganization, just as more than 1,700 people have already done through the online petition on the change.org platform that was started and promoted by the American Statistical Association,” he said.

In mid-January, La Fortaleza Public Affairs Secretary Ramón Rosario had expressed that the Economic Development and Commerce Department (DDEC by its Spanish acronym) would be in charge of designing the process to privatize the PRSI. However, this move would be subject to the approval of the Legislative Assembly during this ordinary session, which runs through the summer.

La Fortaleza said the goal is to give the PRSI’s board “real independence.” If the proposed process is carried out, the board’s members would be named by the private sector.

The PRSI is an autonomous government entity with the task of coordinating the government’s statistics production service to ensure the data collection and statistics systems, on which public policies are based, are complete, reliable and easily accessed.

The Institute has in its inventory, www.estadisticas.pr, about 300 statistical products. In addition, it is custodian and provides access to more than 100 data sets through www.data.pr.gov and over 40 tables and more than 6,000 indicators through: www.indicadores.pr.

Read the full text of the letter here.

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