Why is Puerto Rico bankrupt? Why is our public infrastructure so deteriorated? Why do Puerto Ricans have to suffer from the lack of basic services such as reliable power, water or sewage systems? The answers to these questions are a combination of factors that include, but are not limited to politics, corruption and the lack of continuity in local government. In my opinion, this last one is the most important to face our challenges today.
During the past four years, Puerto Rico has endured more problems than many jurisdictions suffer in decades. For example, the imposition of a Fiscal Oversight Board, the devastation of hurricanes Irma and María and the earthquakes in the south, as well as the crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these challenges have also brought magnificent opportunities that must be seized by the Government so that the Puerto Rican people may reap the rewards. The opportunity to restructure our public debt, the privatization of PREPA and PRASA’s operation and maintenance, $20.2 billion dollars in CDBG-DR funds, and additional tens of billions of dollars in FEMA funds, are some of these “once in a lifetime” opportunities that can be life changing for all. Together they present the chance to rebuild our public and private infrastructure, boost our economy and improve utilities such as power and water.
However, none of these opportunities are born out of nowhere. They are all the result of months, and in some cases years, of hard work put together by the administration, which with their pros and cons, have the ball moving in a defined direction with momentum every passing day. Regardless of who wins the next election, it’s important that the people that comprise our next administration understand the work put behind every one of these opportunities, as well as how the idea of starting anew, whether it be an Action Plan, the Economic and Disaster Recovery Plan for Puerto Rico, the agreements for the restructuring of our debt or P3 contracts, can put everything at risk.
For the last two decades, Puerto Rico has seen a change in administration every four years. With every change in administration, we’ve seen how the “need to establish a difference” pushes elected officials to put aside all the work done previously and “start from scratch” with their own vision and direction. We’ve also seen how this lack of continuity has interrupted progress in critical areas of government, including: regulatory matters, infrastructure maintenance, transformation of services and most importantly, the implementation of strategic projects.
I reiterate that today, we have achieved progress towards exiting the financial crisis with debt restructuring agreements, the transformation of our electric power and water systems through Public Private Partnerships, the reconstruction of communities and economy with CDBG-DR funds and our public infrastructure with billions of “FEMA dollars.”
Please, do not destroy the progress obtained for the mere sake of change. This can affect the trust earned by important stakeholders, be it the private market, HUD or FEMA. Regardless of who will take the reins of our government, my advice is simple: please don’t stall progress.