Just days before the end of this year, and halfway through the first Fiscal Plan framed within the new scenario left by Hurricane María, both the government and the Oversight Board should stand as the immediate solution to settle those differences that undermine the progress of measures for the development of Puerto Rico.
The government and the Board are now amid another controversy regarding reforms to the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) which represents a setback to the principles of efficiency, constructive dialogue and transparency that they must follow.
And this new struggle repeats the same dynamics. On one hand, the government insists on adjusting actions, that sometimes seem to respond to political interests, although they distance from the guidelines stated in the fiscal plan.
On the other hand, there are some attempts of micro-management seem to arise from the Board. The fiscal plan is the map drafted to detoxify the government of the habit to shape its actions within its momentary interests and without accountability. And it is the duty of the Board to ensure that the government achieves the savings necessary to fulfill its obligations and essential services, committed to fiscal responsibility.
The actions necessary seem to be stuck in this struggle of demands and reluctances regarding many of the measures of the fiscal plan. This struggle send the wrong signals, particularly to the federal government, to judge Laura Taylor Swain, who addresses PROMESA Title III cases, and to investment markets.
This critical moment calls for the compliance with the certified fiscal plan and for willingness to reach constructive agreements. Puerto Rico needs the government and the Board to speak with one voice before federal authorities in order to reach the release of funds and the crucial investment to reactivate the economy. Transparency in finances must be their credential.
Right now, there are millions of dollars pending in federal recurrent funds and in disaster relief funding that Puerto Rico must secure.
And also, recovery funding whose release depends on a structure that ensures its proper use. There is local concern regarding the departure of HUD Deputy Secretary Pamela Patenaude. Changes in Trump´s cabinet as well as the new scenario in Congress in January call to reach consensus between the Puerto Rican government and the Board.
There are many priorities and they ask to end disagreements. The government and the Board should show their firm willingness to act together in order to make for the lost time due to decades of negligence, short-termism and other carelessness. The goal should be to efficiently cooperate to boost the huge infrastructure reconstruction task and the fiscal revitalization as the grounds to support a robust and prosper Puerto Rico, capable of swiftly recover from future hardships.
Differences between the government and the Board include changes the entitydemands on the tax system. Since August the government has not complied in submitting the reports on the fiscal impact of the laws passes, as stated in PROMESA. Each party has its versions on the spending reports also requested by PROMESA. The reactivation of the Tax Credits Committee is still pending and there is no agreement on the executive orders and bills that the Board requested to review before approval.
Both the government and the Board must work for the physical, economic and social reconstruction that is urgent for Puerto Rico. The goal must be to work to regain confidence and hope.
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