Sen. Bernabe: Executive orders by governor are ‘of little use’
By John McPhaul
Citizen Victory Movement (CVM) Sen. Rafael Bernabe said Monday that some of the executive orders promulgated by Pedro Pierluisi on his first day as governor of Puerto Rico are futile.
“It is of little use to seek savings in expenses in government agencies if the objective is to pay an unsustainable debt,” Bernabe said in a written statement.
“No one can oppose the efficient use of public funds. Certainly, all expenses must be adequately justified,” the freshman at-large senator added. “But what we have experienced in recent years have been cuts that have limited the services that the people need and that have brought many agencies to the brink of collapse.”
“Suffice it to mention the case of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), affected by cuts that have come to jeopardize its accreditation,” Bernabe said. “Continuing with these policies to reduce services and personnel without canceling illegal and unconstitutional debt, without reducing it to a sustainable level, will continue to impoverish the country and perpetuate the economic crisis.”
Executive Order OE-2021-003 has the purpose, as the title indicates, to “decree measures of fiscal responsibility and control of expenses.” This particular order imposes a series of budgetary restrictions on the different agencies of the island government.
Bernabe, a two-time gubernatorial candidate of the Working People’s Party (2012 and 2016), noted that similar executive orders have had little impact in the past. He invited the governor to examine the first executive orders of governors Luis Fortuño (OE-2009-001), Alejandro García Padilla (OE-2013-002 and OE-2013-003) and Ricardo Rosselló (OE-2017-001).
“It will be seen that Pierluisi’s is almost identical; [they are essentially the] same orders, and despite them we continue in the same situation,” he said.
Bernabe urged the governor “to reinvest in the economy of Puerto Rico the funds currently reserved for the payment of bondholders, as well as the greater participation of citizens in decision-making.”
He insisted that real alternatives exist to face the crisis in Puerto Rico and said that as a result of the people’s sacrifices, in recent years, close to $10 billion has accumulated in a special separate fund to pay bondholders.
“What the moment demands is to reject the proposed agreement with the bondholders, restart the debt audit and fight so that the largest possible part of these funds are dedicated to rebuilding our economy,” the senator said.
“In addition, we must abandon the failed bureaucratic and authoritarian ways of seeking efficiency in public services,” Bernabe added. “Here we are always offered two recipes to improve public services: on the one hand, attack the victories of the workers, make jobs precarious and freeze jobs; on the other hand, privatization. In this way, the best resources we have are wasted: the commitment and knowledge of public employees, along with the interest that people have in improving their services.”
“For a long time we have proposed the creation of labor and citizen participation committees in all agencies. If someone knows where there are unnecessary expenses, unjustified purchases and better ways to organize work, they are those [very people] who work in agencies,” the senator said. “That is why the solution is not privatization or arbitrary cuts, but democratization.”
At the beginning of the legislative session, Bernabe and the CVM delegation have indicated that they will be introducing legislation related to the public debt, the situation of the UPR and labor rights, among other issues.