Senators condemn consolidation of Puerto Rico Statistics Institute
SAN JUAN – Amid discussion over the reorganization of the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute at the local and federal levels, Sen. Eduardo Bhatia, the upper chamber’s former president and now Popular Democratic Party (PDP) minority leader, lashed out against the executive branch’s proposal to consolidate the entity, declaring the agency should not fall into private hands
“Regardless of the public policy position we take, there must be robust statistics in Puerto Rico, verifiable statistics. Making public policy without statistics is a serious mistake,” Bhatia sentenced during a turn on the Senate floor.
Bhatia stressed that the institute, which could be become an instrumentality of the Economic Development and Commerce Department (DDEC by its Spanish acronym), has been recognized internationally as “one of the most organized centers” and has provided the island’s government with statistics that were previously unknown.
Private entities should not be in charge of compiling statistics, the senator reiterated. He then questioned the administration of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s intent to “kill an entity that is doing its job.”
“I woke up today as a Puerto Rican and as a human being, as someone who works with public policy and defends Puerto Ricans, in favor of an Institute of Statistics and to ask fellow senators to take the Institute of Statistics out of these new bills that will basically consolidate the government of Puerto Rico,” Bhatia said.
Independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot characterized the consolidation as a “wild measure” and superfluous for the island.
“Actually, a country needs to develop its operational roadmap based precisely on reliable statistics and not on any other mechanism. I believe Puerto Rico does not need more improvisation, it needs to be based on science and I think it’s a loss if we continue thinking about eliminating an asset for the country such as the Institute of Statistics,” Vargas Vidot said.
In a letter dated Feb. 2, 15 U.S. representatives criticized the proposed reorganization of the institute, reiterating the importance of independent, public and impartial statistics.
Bhatia also questioned the proposed consolidation of the Puerto Rico Energy Commission (PREC) with the Telecommunications Regulatory Board and the Public Service Commission, underlining that the former worked well independently for three years.
“Who stopped the Electric Power Authority [Prepa] rate increase? The Energy Commission. Who gave Prepa back an integrated resource plan for the future that was on par with the whole world? The Energy Commission. Who’s the one who has defended citizens amid the bondholders demand to raise the rate? The Energy Commission,” he went on.
In a recent interview with Caribbean Business, Senate Vice President Larry Seilhamer said PREC should remain independent because its budget does not affect the island’s General Fund.
“[PREC] receives its operational and administrative money from a fee on private and public providers, including Prepa, which at the end of the day is part of the cost paid by the consumer. In terms of Prepa, that monthly cost paid by subscribers is negligible, it’s cents. So if the plan to insert it into a governmental office is for economizing, it doesn’t represent a saving,” Seilhamer said.