Fiscal Board Committed to Puerto Rico’s Economic Development
SAN JUAN — Although the federal Promesa legislation doesn’t direct the Fiscal Oversight & Management Board to work on Puerto Rico’s economic development while it deals with the island’s debt restructuring process, Chairman José Carrión III assured he is committed to carrying out efforts toward that direction.
“Economic development can’t wait four years, it has to begin immediately. We share that concern and we are getting involved in that conversation. Although the law per se doesn’t assign responsibility regarding this issue in Promesa, we want to participate in that conversation and we anticipate having a meeting in which the subject of economic development would be the main topic. All in its time,” Carrión said Friday during a roundtable with Puerto Rico’s business press.
Carrión added he has spoken with the Republican leadership in Congress about Puerto Rico’s affairs, and the response they have given him is: “Begin with what you have to do and then come back and we can talk about economic development for the island.”
“There are three million U.S. citizens here and they know it. They get a lot of pressure on the matter and are up-to-date. We [the oversight board] will do what we have to do, and we will take to Congress a proposal that is mutually beneficial, with which we can develop and foster Puerto Rico’s economic development. I didn’t say ‘give me, give me.’ No. They are already tired of us asking without giving anything in return. This is about ‘do what you have to do and then come back so we can do something together that is mutually beneficial,’” the oversight board chairman said.
The first step toward Puerto Rico’s economic development is fiscal stability, and toward that route is that the board is headed, Carrión said.
“It worries us; we want to participate [in the discussion on economic development]. We are waiting to have a meeting where this subject will be discussed in depth. To the extent that we can help from now on we will be there. Without access to the municipal market, there is no infrastructure development. That is why we must first seek fiscal stability,” he added.
Revitalization coordinator search
The oversight board continues to look for an official revitalization coordinator, which Gov. Ricardo Rosselló will select from a list of candidates that it will provide him, Carrión said. That post is currently served by Aaron Bielenberg, who was picked by former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla. Bielenberg is a member of the McKinsey consulting firm and doesn’t receive additional remuneration for the post.
“You might remember that that post had to be designated for a fixed period, but logic states that if a person will be designated to work with the new governor, but the outgoing governor designates him, then that wasn’t logical. In order to comply with the law, we did it as an advisory post, to provide the actual governor [the power] to name a person he trusts, because he will name [the coordinator]. We don’t name them; we provide the governor a series of names. The thing is we want to provide a series of names that are acceptable to him and acceptable to us. This is a conversation…I began to have with attorney [Elías] Sánchez these days,” Carrión said.
The revitalization coordinator is the person who, as established by Promesa, will have the last word in identifying, approving and making critical projects that contribute to restore Puerto Rico’s economy viable.
“He is doing the road map. He did the study about where the infrastructure needs are; he has met with the different stakeholders, contractors, energy sectors and others, and he will hand [the study] over to the person the governor chooses as his revitalization coordinator to implement Title V. This is the work we have already done so you can see it, and whatever he or she does is another matter entirely. There will be a completed job that will be handed over,” he said.
The oversight board expects that the person occupying the post will be Puerto Rican so he or she is familiar with the island’s infrastructure.
Carrión also mentioned that the board will be hiring staff shortly, and that it will be looking for people committed to Puerto Rico.
“We want to maximize the number of Puerto Ricans who make up the full-time advisers. We have discussed this because we want people committed to Puerto Rico’s development, and we believe it is something we must keep in mind. Everything that we can do in Puerto Rico, we will do it in Puerto Rico,” he assured.