• The Star Staff

Fiscal board to lose its chairman, at least one other member, but not immediately

By The Star Staff

Two members of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico are stepping down, but not immediately, and a third, whose name was not revealed, is also planning to leave.

After almost four years at the helm of the oversight board, its chairman, José B. Carrión, announced Wednesday that he has informed the White House that he will not be available for renomination for a second term as a member of the board. Carrión’s last day on the job will be Oct. 5 of this year, or when the president and Congress appoint a successor, whichever happens first. Board member Carlos M. García also said he will not be available to serve a second term on the entity created by Congress to implement the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act of 2016, better known as PROMESA.

“Upon appointment, I committed to serve a three-year term, yet we will soon be concluding our fourth year, this coming August,” said Carrión, who used the occasion to thank his family for all their patience, understanding and wise counsel. “I am also grateful to the president

and congressional leadership for the opportunity to have been of service to Puerto Rico.”

Carrión said one other oversight board member is leaving but declined to reveal the name.

He said he has proposed names of candidates but that he was not clear as to the process that will be followed.

“The president has to collaborate with Congress but the process is polarized,” he said. “I do not know how the process will be.”

García said he has notified the Office of the President that after four years on the oversight board he will not be available to serve another term.

“It has been an honor to work alongside my fellow board members, and I am proud of what has been accomplished in these past four years amidst very challenging circumstances,” he said.

García will remain on the board until Aug. 31. “At the end of 2016, I received a call that would lead me to the most challenging, toughest, and most demanding job I have ever had in my professional career,” Carrión said. “Nonetheless and without regret, I must say that serving as chair of the oversight board has also given me the greatest opportunity to make a positive contribution to Puerto Rico.”

“I am fortunate and grateful to have worked side by side with six talented colleagues from different backgrounds, ideologies and life experiences. Together we have made literally hundreds of very difficult, yet fair decisions for the benefit of Puerto Rico, almost all of them unanimously,” he added. “My fellow members have been passionate, steadfast advocates for Puerto Rico, and have done so without compensation. I also take pride in the group of professionals working for the oversight board … public policy experts, people of remarkable commitment, drive and passion, most of Puerto Rican heritage, who have championed the best ideas regardless of their political preferences.”

At the conclusion of the public meeting held Wednesday by the oversight board, Carrión shared the news of his departure and gave a brief account of the board’s accomplishments during the past four years.

“Together, we have accomplished many things. I am most proud to have defended pension payments to all public employees despite the insolvency of the public pension system,” he said. “We have also certified responsible fiscal plans and budgets with appropriate controls, regardless of political considerations. Due to this fiscal discipline we have been able to assist the government to respond quickly to different crises such as the earthquakes earlier this year and the current COVID-19 emergency, with meaningful economic aid.

“I am also proud of the progress we have made in the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s public debt, saving the people of Puerto Rico billions of dollars in both principal and interest. And last but not least, last week we preliminarily approved the public-private partnership to transfer to an independent, private-sector consortium the management, operation and maintenance of the transmission and distribution systems of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. This agreement represents the kind of transformation of our electrical utility that is so crucially important to the people of Puerto Rico.”

Carrión said his tenure as oversight board chair had its share of disappointments along the way as well, chief among them the lack of commitment and political will to implement structural reforms necessary to propel Puerto Rico’s economy beyond its dependency on federal transfers.

“Puerto Rico doesn’t lack human capital, ideas, or plans to improve its economy,” Carrión said. “What it lacks is the determination to implement these transformative reforms for the benefit of our people.”

“PROMESA was and is an imposition upon Puerto Rico by the federal government. However, it is also a life preserver and a tool that has saved Puerto Rico from drowning in a sea of debt,” he added. “It is certainly not perfect, but if properly used, it can continue to help our government to find its way out of its crippling public debt and to lay the foundation for a more prosperous future for generations of Puerto Ricans.”

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