Lúgaro’s platform: A new Vision or Absence of a Specific Plan?
Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in a series of reports analyzing the platforms of Puerto Rico’s gubernatorial candidates and their implications alongside the Financial Oversight & Management Board.
SAN JUAN – If independent candidate Alexandra Lúgaro were to become the second woman governor of Puerto Rico, the first thing she would do is select a team “from all political ideologies,” people who possess “the preparation and experience” to make the decisions the island needs with the discretion they’ll be allowed from her part to do so.
“Unlike what we have seen for years, in my administration, agency secretaries won’t be the rubber stamps of the executive branch,” the independent candidate told Caribbean Business, adding that she would meet with legislators and elected mayors so “they know my work plans and I get to know theirs.”
Lúgaro, who is also a lawyer, would also meet with the members of the fiscal oversight board established by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (Promesa) to let them know what “areas I want to work on,” explain to them the legal framework applicable in Puerto Rico and the root of the island’s socioeconomic problems so that “in the long-term, the changes made can be sustained by law.”
She anticipated not having to follow the fiscal plan presented by Gov. Alejandro García Padilla because the board “isn’t going to approve it” because “it falls short on measures to improve our economy.” Therefore,she believes that it won’t be until after the elections that the real fiscal plan is developed.
For Lúgaro, the key to addressing the island’s main problems is education. That is why her platform focuses primarily on improving the education system by implementing the successes of other countries, creating an Education Public Policy Alliance to design a 12-year education plan, and raising the requirements to become a teacher.
To promote transparency, she proposes implementing a merit system -through which the basis for the dismissal of inefficient employees would be developed- depoliticizing the government, reducing the political campaign period and the amount and use of electoral funds on election year, eliminating the private donations.
In economic terms, the candidate proposes that the public debt be restructured within Promesa’s framework and in collaboration with the fiscal board. For economic development, she suggests legalizing cannabis, promoting agriculture, developing Puerto Rican multinationals, strengthening small and midsize businesses (Pymes by their Spanish acronym) and modernizing the manufacturing sector.
Brief and ‘superficial’ government platform
Economist Jorge Elguera believes Lúgaro’s government platform “is very superficial, mostly cliché, many nice words, a lot of what should have been done and has been repeated for years,” but “the how is missing, which is what’s needed to have an economic development plan.”
Beyond a government platform, Elguera considers the three areas covered by Lúgaro’s plan found on her website “a list of goals. Measurable objectives must be included. That’s what makes a government plan a strategic plan, and none of the candidates has that,” he said.
Economist Vicente Feliciano agreed with Elguera in that her platform contains “very general proposals,” and therefore leaves “us with little we could say” regarding the possibility of implementing them.
“She speaks of supporting Pymes, and one of the ways is through labor reform. Is she in favor of labor reform? Another way is in relation to electricity costs. Until there is a specific element, [the platform] is more like motherhood and apple pie. Who’s against these?” Feliciano said.
For his part, political analyst Luis Pabón Roca told Caribbean Business that Lúgaro’s platform includes “a collection of fundamentally good ideas. The problem is it doesn’t give you the ‘how.’ It’s what I call Mother’s Day proposals. One can’t be against improving the quality of teachers, for example.”
But for Lúgaro, the generality of her proposals, which she called “flexible” is precisely one of her strengths.
“It’s not that they are general, it’s that they are flexible. If we make rigid proposals to cater to only one reality, which is what happens often, we don’t have the flexibility to move when situations arise whether they be in the market or some internal situation in the country. These proposals are not set in stone and in that same sense it works to have them open for consensus and negotiation because at government I will not work alone,” the ex director of América Aponte & Asociados, company which achieved millionaire contracts with the Education Department, sustained.
The lawyer noted that the proposals “serve as a guide” to lead the country to economic growth and stressed that, in the case of pymes, she will focus on providing financing and business knowledge to traders.
On her proposal to develop 10 Puerto Rican multinationals, she explained that it will involve choosing companies with global potential where government resources would be concentrated. The initiative would be reinforced by “angel investors” who are “tested Puerto Rican entrepreneurs who have an income willing to invest in a diversified manner in various [local] companies.”
On the other hand, Feliciano said that proposals such as “professionalize the role of country promoters” is something currently done by the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (Pridco) and that issues such as the elimination of cabotage laws is an element in which many agree, but are up to the federal Congress.
Given this, Lugaro added that, in effect, “Pridco has that function, but has not done so correctly”, and therefore proposes to improve the role of “selling the country properly to investors so that they can come here to invest their capital.”
Regarding the cabotage laws, she said that she will go before the US Congress to pose it as an economic issue and not about status, as has been alleged in the past.
“Puerto Rico as an unincorporated territory of the United States will require a bailout paid for by US taxpayers and what congressmen least want is that. If they do not want that, they have to untie our hands in terms of economic development and one of the first things to do for that is to amend the enforcement of cabotage the country, “he said.
“Innovative” support to legalization of cannabis
Moreover, Pabon Roca labeled as “novel” Lugaro’s backing of the legalization of cannabis, not only medicinal, but also recreational, and said that it is “an open stance which contrasts with that of other candidates, who are limited to medicalization “. However, he said that this does not necessarily solve the problem of drug points, which nourish off of “harder drugs”.
On the proposals to close schools with poor academic indexes or firing employees, the political analyst said they were “brave” proposals that the candidate must explain carefully how she will implement them, since in the past layoffs “did not work”.
On the reduction of campaign time, Pabon Roca said that “it is not constitutionally feasible”, as it would limit the freedom of expression of candidates who may “be campaigning the four years.”
But Lugaro said she will support the legalization of marijuana and an electoral reform in the Legislature, issues she has already discussed with aspiring legislators for the next four years.
“During these four years, I would be working hard to convince our Legislature of the serious injury in terms of corruption that political investing has done to our country,” she said of her electoral reform, which also hopes to have the support of the fiscal control board.
Program Summary Alexandra Lúgaro government:
• Implement merit system and include periodic assessment of employees.
• Establishment of an interagency database and statistics.
• Phased Governmental Depoliticizing, starting with the Department of Education and areas related to economic development.
• Submit a draft referendum so that voters can decide on: Reducing municipalities, Single government corps, reducing to two years the lawmakers term to increase the term of the governor to 6 years.
• Electoral reform: Eliminate the Electoral Fund and provide an equitable amount to the various candidates for each elective office to disseminate their proposals.
• Identify strategic growth areas globally to develop them in PR.
• Strengthening pymes and capital injections.
• Diversify and expand the scope of tourism: go beyond the “sun and beach” tourism, include medical, academic and sports.
• Legalization of cannabis and its derivatives will increase government revenues by cultivation, research and sales, and reduce war on drug points.
• Promote and strengthen areas of research, innovation and technology.
• Professionalization of the role of country promoters: training personnel in economics, law, negotiation and marketing techniques so they can analyze market opportunities globally to promote investment in PR.
• Debt restructuring and repayment of certainty and stability to the financial climate: through the Promesa Law in collaboration with the board of fiscal control.
• To promote the transition to a universal health plan, focused on preventive medicine.
• Requiring parity in federal health funds.
• Integrate efforts of various agencies to improve mental health services.
• To retain health professionals, better pay will be encouraged and the condition of rare specialties will be promoted.
• The funding would be made through agencies such as ACAA, CFSE and chauffeur insurance.
• Establish a chemotherapy center in Vieques.
• Convert the University of Puerto Rico into a resource bank.
• Create Educational Alliance of Public Policy also integrating teachers, members of the private sector, economists, citizens and non-profit entities. They will design the educational public policy of Puerto Rico covering 12 years. They scheduled an efficient use of federal funds and efficient use in the ED. Integrate different types of education.
• Develop a world-class teaching force and reinforce faculties of education.
• Establish critical model of teacher preparation to handle clinical experiences such as an “expert teacher”. Offer these trainings in the ED.
• Ensure that the teacher profession is well paid and that this is tied to a merit system.
• Identify schools that do not meet standards to: close them and distribute students to better performing schools, send best performing staff to other schools, retrain key personnel or underperforming staff in those schools, change management of high-performing schools to those of low.
• Give a health approach to combating drug addiction and drug dealing.
• Create a permanent body to study violence and a citizen panel to evaluate police management.
• Reform the prison system to develop rehabilitation of inmates.