EDITORIAL: Building the foundations of a different Puerto Rico
Next to having a federal credit line of $ 4.7 billion, the administration of Governor Ricardo Rosselló has the responsibility to reinvent, along with the diverse sectors of the Island, the basis of what the new Puerto Rico will be and begin to build them.
Thursday, October 26, 2017 – 10:58 AM
Now that federal district Judge Laura Taylor Swain has granted a motion that federal funds allocated to Puerto Rico for assistance and recovery from the strike of Hurricane Maria cannot be claimed in the restructuring of public debt, the Puerto Rican government has to ensure that new resources are intended to build the foundations of a different, modern and sustainable Island.
Next to having a federal credit line of $4.7 billion, the administration of Governor Ricardo Rosselló has the responsibility to reinvent, along with the diverse sectors of the Island, the basis of what the new Puerto Rico will be and begin to build them.
Doing otherwise, using the funds that will soon be available for anything but repairing the pieces of a shattered Island –which was the result of the misuse, laziness, opportunism, short-term actions and the hit of Hurricane Maria-, would be just like throwing them in a broken sack.
Puerto Rico needs a plan to avoid repeating the collapse left by the storm. It needs to chart the route towards a prosperous and strong Island that will resist future climatic, social and economic adversities. There are plenty of proposals. They are owned by the private sector and by non-profit organizations that are familiar with successful models. They are also owned by the academy, equipped with scientific data, as well as the communities that suffer in their own flesh the blind spots of the system. It is necessary to call them in an open and transparent process.
As part of the new guidelines, it is necessary to establish clear controls and accountability on the use of federal money and the one generated by the treasury when the situation stabilizes.
These mechanisms are crucial to ensuring the credibility and confidence of the federal government and capital markets over the administrative capacity of the Island’s government. In particular, in the face of public matters, such as those that come to the attention of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), still without convincing answers about the costly hiring to repair the battered system, which was already obsolete.
The $4.7 billion that the federal government is willing to lend to the Island is only an initial injection. It will take much more to boost the economic activity that Hurricane Maria ended up thrashing. In this task, the private sector and diaspora are essential to attract viable sources of financing and foreign capital needed to build the Puerto Rico that must emerge from this disastrous experience.
To the $72 billion debt that the Island was carrying, we must add the losses that are accumulated every day due to the lack of electricity and drinking water. Economistsestimate it will fluctuate between $20 billion and $100 billion.
It is up to the government to write with actions that letter of presentation that shows that there is a common purpose to build a first class Island and to watch over the jealous use of the money that receives. Gone are the shackles of the past in public administration and its myopia. Now, in the midst of the most terrible humanitarian crisis the Island has experienced in recent history, the mere appearance of diversion from the basic principles of sound administration must be repudiated by everyone.
From the highest public leadership, at all levels of public management, particularly in relation to the reconstruction of Puerto Rico, transparency is a mandate. We must demonstrate that we learned from the past, that there is no room for improvisation and embezzlement that left Puerto Rico battered and without resources before the hurricane.
It is urgent that, with the federal funds coming in and now protected from the debt restructuring process under Title III of PROMESA, the government, along with the private and the third sector, will trace the monumental route towards the construction of a Puerto Rico that rises on solid and adaptable basis that will endure.