• The San Juan Daily Star

Fiscal board, governor: The word ‘bankruptcy’ should no longer be used in reference to Puerto Rico

David Skeel, chairman of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico

By The Star Staff

Financial Oversight and Management Board Chairman David Skeel says it is time to leave behind the discourse of the bankruptcy of Puerto Rico.

“We are coming out of bankruptcy,” Skeel said at a news conference last week. “We hope that soon we will have the judge’s decision confirming the Adjustment Plan that will reduce Puerto Rico’s debt by a much, much lower amount than it was before PROMESA [the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act].”

The parties have been getting together to correct and modify certain aspects of the debt adjustment plan upon the request of Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who had issued a ruling containing certain objections to the plan.

“Our desire and our expectation is to start turning and focusing on economic development and ensuring fiscal responsibility,” Skeel added.

During the presentation of Invest Puerto Rico Executive Director Rodrick Miller at a meeting last week, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia stated that if the issue of economic development is to be promoted and investment is to be attracted, the word bankruptcy must be removed from the vocabulary when talking about Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, oversight board member Justin Peterson assured that as a result of the progress they have made, by next year Congress may be asked to evaluate legislation to amend PROMESA so that the board can complete its functions immediately.

“I totally agree that the people who live in Puerto Rico as American citizens should be represented by the people they choose,” he declared.

Regarding the request of Judge Swain for the oversight board to modify some matters in the debt adjustment plan, the board’s executive director, Natalie Jaresko, stated: “We will answer her questions.”

“It is good that the judge is asking us these questions so that she can be clear about these issues and [we can] help her pave the way for what we want, and that is for her to confirm the Adjustment Plan,” Jaresko said.

Jaresko said she would take advantage of the fact that Pierluisi was in New York with them, to meet and discuss some of the issues that Swain flagged in her ruling.

Asked if they will insist that retirement laws 80, 81 and 82 be invalidated, Jaresko said the oversight board’s position against those statutes has not changed.

When asked for a reaction on the recent cases of corruption on the island, Jaresko called on mayors to adopt some of the measures that the oversight board has promoted with the Puerto Rico government, in order to avoid such situations.

“The board has done everything in its power to work with the General Services Administration to improve bidding processes. Unfortunately, these measures do not apply to municipalities,” Jaresko said. “The Municipal Code does not require such measures in auctions in some cases. But we ask the municipalities -- because we cannot force them -- to voluntarily accept these initiatives for transparency in auctions, even if the Municipal Code does not contemplate it.”

Jaresko said anti-corruption measures are among the measures the island has to adopt to improve its economic development.

“We have to change the way people look at Puerto Rico,” she said. “If people continue to see it with pity -- poor thing -- or if they see it as the place of opportunity, if they see it as the future. Because all the things that happen on the island influence that vision, although corruption is not the only issue in Puerto Rico.”

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