Gubernatorial Candidates Divided on Promesa, Fiscal Management Board
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, or Promesa, which creates a fiscal management board to address the commonwealth government’s fiscal and economic crisis has created an even larger stance gap between the island’s six gubernatorial candidates, from vows of resistance to promises of collaboration and commitments to evaluate its proposals.
The candidates presented their respective views during the Puerto Rico Journalists Association’s (ASPPRO by its Spanish acronym) annual convention Friday at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in Miramar.
The candidate for the Working People’s Party (PPT by its Spanish initials), Rafael Bernabe, who opened the forum, proposed to put the island’s needs ahead of the fiscal board’s.
“What the country needs hasn’t changed by the creation of Promesa or the fiscal control board; more work needs to be done on what the country needs with the board; to the extent that Promesa does not respond to what the country needs, we need to work on what the country needs against the board, resisting what it intends to impose,” Bernabe said.
He argued that the way to fight the board is defending the people’s decision in the elections, and “true to that, even resort to civil disobedience if what is proposed goes against the best interests of the people.”
Meanwhile, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, David Bernier, said the board must be worked with, and that he will be presenting a five-year plan that addresses the public debt’s restructuring “fairly and responsibly.”
He stressed his plan includes political stability and economic recovery strategies, and that his proposal seeks to inject the savings of the debt restructuring as investment for economic development.
“The priority is to provide political stability in coordination with the fiscal control board and Promesa,” he said, noting that the elected governor should have a voice in the board’s deliberations.
Bernier dismissed civil disobedience and advocated for coordination between the Puerto Rico government and the board’s work.
Alexandra Lúgaro, an independent candidate, spoke about what she would do so the board ceases to operate as soon as possible.
In her presentation, she reiterated her proposals on education, economic development and federal funds, and raised the need for government aid to be refocused on people and linked to work. She acknowledged that the board has important aspects, particularly with the awarding of contracts.
Meanwhile, New Progressive Party candidate Ricardo Rosselló gave a detailed narrative of his plans, noting he has already prepared a plan to discuss with the board in order to start work immediately on areas he has identified that can be improved upon.
He said his plan contains a 10 percent reduction to the federal spending budget in addition to the redistribution of allocations and that his proposal seeks a socioeconomic transformation based on the government’s human resources, under the single employer model, and using science, technology and education as tools to lower government spending.
“The difference between what we propose and what other colleagues propose is that the goal is to reach a framework of objective fiscal targets,” he said, reiterating he already has specific plans to obtain the fiscal results of his proposals.
Rosselló added he already has a relationship with credit-rating companies and creditors to renegotiate the terms of the debt and achieve market access, and that he hopes that as soon as he starts his administration he would have the terms of renegotiation ready.
In that regard, he raised the importance of the elections, for which, contrary to others, he said, “we have a plan to relieve and cut with our public policy and not with what’s prescribed by a board.”
He ruled out having problems with the board because he believes his plan will complement the federal entity’s work, “because we know what we have to do,” he said.
Meanwhile, independent candidate Manuel Cidre emphasized the governor’s role within the board, although whoever is elected has no vote.
“Although it seems a leadership position ex officio, the governor’s interaction with the [board’s] executive director is essential for the process to flow and to be an advocate for Puerto Rico before the board,” he said.
He stressed the importance of the legislature and the governor being in agreement to present a fiscal plan and a budget. “If we don’t reach an agreement, the board will make the decision,” he said.
Pro-independence candidate María de Lourdes Santiago, who closed the forum, reiterated her rejection to the board’s presence on the grounds that it is a consequence of Puerto Rico’s colonial status, saying the island’s colonial condition had to be addressed first in order to begin working on its affairs, but not with an “imperial body such as the board,” she said.
Santiago invited people to “step outside the small box that is the colonial situation and seriously ask ourselves” about the importance of fighting the board.
She said she was the only candidate and useful vote against the board, the colony and for annexation.
She insisted the fundamental problem is the colonial relationship of the commonwealth that the United States has with Puerto Rico, and therefore “work must be done to change it.”