In one year, the number of public servants in Puerto Rico was reduced by 12,033 workers, according to the most recent Registry of Occupied Positions prepared by the Office of the Comptroller.
This figure represents a 6 percent decrease in the government's workforce, and includes the reductions reported in public corporations, the central government, municipalities and other government agencies with fiscal independence.
The reduction, however, is not entirely proportional between the different government structures. For example, municipalities, which employ one in 10 public servants in Puerto Rico, lost a third of their positions.
Meanwhile, those departments and agencies of the central government, which employ half of the public workers, had a 37 percent reduction. In this way, proportionally, municipalities had to reduce their payroll with greater intensity than the central government.
In fact, agencies that directly or indirectly are under Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, such as central government agencies and public corporations, have contributed to a decrease of 7,317 government positions.
That figure implies that, despite having three out of four (75 percent) of public employees in Puerto Rico, the Executive Branch -including public corporations and the Governor's Office- has contributed with 61 percent of the cuts.
"That is the pressure we, all the mayors, see. The response of mayors to the crisis has been to reduce the workforce because the money is not enough and the central government continues to take away resources," said Rolando Ortiz, president of the Mayors Association which brings together Popular Democratic Party (PPD) mayors.
"Municipalities have profound economic deficiencies," reacted, meanwhile, Carlos Molina, president of the Mayors Federation, which brings together New Progressive Party (NPP) mayors.
The Judicial Branch, for its part, reduced between February 2017 and February 2018, some 156 positions. This equates to a 3 percent reduction in employee service.
Meanwhile, the Legislative Assembly has not suffered the effect of government austerity, according to its payroll, which had 237 new positions, totaling 11 percent to the number of public servants.
Much of the increase occurred in the positions of trust, according to the Registry.
No representative of the central government was available yesterday to react and define what the vision and goal in reducing their staff is.
La Fortaleza did not answer a request from El Nuevo Día, while the Secretary of Labor and Human Resources Carlos Saavedra referred any questions to the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority.
The director of that agency, Gerardo Portela, did not answer questions either. Rather, they provided figures from the two programs aimed at reducing the number of employees in the government. The first program has already ended and resulted in 2,165 public employees who joined the program. The second is ongoing and they reported that, so far, 4,300 public employees joined the program.
Effect on the payroll
Eduardo Arroyo, expert in leadership and strategic planning, in line with the 6 percent reduction of regular employees in the central government, questioned how much the payroll was reduced in net terms.
"The first question to ask is how much the payroll has been reduced because at the end of the day, if you give me the number of employees, it does not really tell me much," Arroyo said.
The Treasury did not provide the requested information regarding that figure.
He added that another concern, as a planning strategist, is what the value assigned to the government is, its strategic positioning and its services.
"I work with the value equation, divided by cost. As a leader, I look for the result of that equation to increase. That equation increases in four ways: by raising the value, by lowering the cost, by raising the value faster than the cost goes up and by lowering the value slower than the cost goes down, "he said.
"My question is, has my value decreased more than the cost has decreased proportionally or has it decreased less? If my value has dropped more than the cost has gone down, my result is even worse, "he added.
Arroyo said that in the last 30 years, the government has emphasized on the cost "and very little in value".
A clear definition is urgent
For profesor of public administration Mario Negrón Portillo, a vital exercise that the administration of Rosselló Nevares has not done is to define what the reason to reduce the government is and where to cut.
"Not everything has the same importance in the government. Reducing in the Medical Center is not the same as reducing the Housing Department. It is not the same to reduce in the Treasury - in the forms area - that to do it in the Office of the Governor ", said the author of the book Government Reform: a new organizational model for Puerto Rico.
"What must be done - and has not been done - is to discuss the substantive functions of the government, what is truly important and not protect them to reduce elsewhere," said Negrón Portillo.
He stressed that nobody wants to define "what the priorities are". The fiscal plan certified by the Oversight Board does not define "essential services". However, under the concept that the government must be restructured, the entity in charge of the island's finances proposes to reduce the number of agencies from 114 to 22 "groupings". In addition, during the five years of the plan, it projects savings of $ 1,5 billion in compensation measures, related to employees.
"The question is whether that fiscal plan started from the premise of what is truly substantive and non-delegable or if it was a fiscal plan based on what the Board understood was the correct way ... I do not think the Board used the government non-delagable functions as a starting point," he said.
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