Fiscal Oversight Board convenes public hearing open to citizens
SAN JUAN — The Fiscal Oversight & Management Board will gather next Saturday in a public hearing open for particular citizens, in which they will be able to participate.
The Board hasn’t announced the location for the meeting, but according to the government’s representative before the Board, Elías Sánchez, people may request turns online.
“The person is allowed to attend, present, and comment because they are public hearings. It’s part of the procedure so the people has participation and an opening to share their comments,” said Sánchez in a radio interview (WKAQ 580).
Sánchez will represent the government and expects to attend Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s requests, particularly moratorium extension against litigations and extension regarding the fiscal plan’s certification.
“On both instances, the Board stated on its Jan. 18 letter that they were inclined in favor [of the government’s requests], based on a series of conditions. On Sunday I contacted the Board because the conditions exposed in its letter, the government had already been developing them with their advisers,” he explained.
As to the missive the governor sent to the Board, he said it was responded with alternatives to each issue presented. To Sánchez’s understanding, both the government and the Board have the same direction, but with different mechanisms. He explained that the Board’s formula is to fire employees and cut certain benefits to reach the numbers, which s contrary to the government’s plan.
“What the governor is proposing is: allow the Government of Puerto Rico the opportunity to implement its plan, which is aimed toward reducing the quantity of agencies, reducing the quantity of bureaucracy and operational expenses, not necessarily payrolls. In the end, what the Board must ensure is that the numbers they are providing become effected. We are in the same line, we will reach those numbers by other means,” he said.
For the new administration, a considerable portion of the fiscal crisis that affects the island can be attributed to the Popular Democratic Party’s (PDP) last administration. According to Sánchez, former Governor Alejandro García Padilla’s administration lied during the government transition hearings.
“I can show you the graphs they brought me in the Transition Committee during the third week of November, beginning transition after the election, which said that Puerto Rico had almost cero deficit. A politician’s discourse behind the microphone is one thing, but another thing is the numbers they dare to present. Politics is one thing and a government that operates in bad faith against its people is another, and that is what happened here,” he declared.
Sánchez also denounced that García Padilla’s government never mentioned a $7 billion deficit.
Eduardo Bhatia Responds
After Elías Sánchez’s indications that the past administration lied to the people, former Senate president and current PDP Senate Minority Leader Eduardo Bhatia responded that Puerto Rico’s numbers were audited by the federal government.
“The U.S. Treasury Department made these numbers public more than two years ago, all of Puerto Rico’s numbers are out there. I believe it is a farce to tell the people of Puerto Rico that they just found out that Puerto Rico’s debt is too big, thus moratorium to claims, to which they so fervently opposed, now demand to be extended,” he stated in the same radio station.
Bhatia encouraged the New Progressive Party (NPP) administration to “stop talking about tribes and let’s talk to the people with the truth.”