The approval of $ 9 million – this week – to distribute in the House representative, which is expected to happen in the Senate as well, is another example of the reluctance of the Legislative Branch to act according to the serious fiscal crisis of Puerto Rico.
Instead, the old practice of distributing funds, with little or no accountability, for their electoral interests persists. These actions threaten prudence and a sustainable vision, and undermine efforts to get the island out of bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, the legislature refuses to reduce its own budget. It is unprecedented to persist on an attitude of indifference toward the real problems of the island. Citizens are those who end up losing opportunities and services due to the Legislature´s unnecessary expenses.
Allowing such attitudes open the doors for the island to lose money and hinders the way toward a real transformation. The political leadership and citizens have to push for the Legislature to assume its collaborative role in the Puerto Rican reconstruction process.
The island suffers a persistent socioeconomic inequality that requires fair and integrated public policies that will provide equal development opportunities for citizens.
The repercussions of these unjust conditions are multiple and have more impact on the vulnerable population. That harsh reality is showed in a recent report on the impact of Hurricane María on children and youth. Children living in households with lack of resources, still today, are the most affected. More than half of children under 18 lack sustainable livelihoods. On the other hand, it is estimated that a quarter of our adult population did not finish school, driven by an anachronistic education system.
Where are, for example, the legislative proposals that -based on scientific studies and effective measurement mechanisms- address the multiple dimensions of these problems and eradicate the roots? Where are the legislative proposals to seriously and urgently address the lack of equipment and personnel in the Forensic Sciences Institute, or to ensure that HIV patients are not forced to interrupt their treatments?
Instead, we see a Legislature ready to make its way to the 2020 elections.
President of the House Treasury Committee Antonio Soto has anticipated his intention to challenge the Fiscal Plan, due to potential cuts to the Legislature budget. He argues that such budgetary adjustments would affect legislative services and democracy.
Meanwhile, the Legislature allocates almost $ 190,000 to build more monuments that, regardless of the causes they are dedicated to, cause surprise in an island without credit, with fiscal deficiency, that is amid a reconstruction process and with massive poverty.
In addition to this recently approved $ 9 million package, the Legislature is already making plans for new items of about $ 10 million before the end of this session. The tendency for each term has been that most of the funds are distributed based on partisan considerations.
They argue that the funds would be used for infrastructure improvements and certain services to citizens, including youth and older people. Approving funds in such a way, without contextualizing the most urgent needs, only addresses a few symptoms of structural problems that require the Legislature to work fully and energetically.
Puerto Rico deserves more than these attempts to gain sympathy from its political leadership, particularly from its direct representatives in the Legislature.
The political class must recognize its responsibility in the serious problems the island is facing. Citizens deserve, at least, a clear and precise accountability on the funds distributed, where they will be used, to whom, why and the results achieved. Citizens must remain vigilant and demand elected politicians accountability on their actions, what they do or fail to do. Citizens right to participate in democracy does not have to wait for the next elections.