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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

‘Things are getting a little better’

Commonwealth Comptroller Yesmín Valdivieso (Richard Gutiérrez/The San Juan Daily Star)

Comptroller of Puerto Rico expresses optimism on the future of the island’s economy

By Richard Gutiérrez

For 13 years, Yesmín Valdivieso has been the comptroller of Puerto Rico. Even though there is an economic crisis on the island, she is optimistic about the future of the island’s overall economy.

“Even though there is still a lot of work to be done, throughout my 13 years of experience I have seen things get better over time in the public administration,” Valdivieso told the STAR at the recent first ombudsman symposium. “People in the administration are more conscious of what they have to do.”

Valdivieso added that teamwork is most needed to fix the economic situation on the island.

“I believe Puerto Rico has the opportunity to get better not only because of all the federal funds and additional funds that are being provided, but because I think if we all work together and put Puerto Rico first, of course we can provide help for the situation,” she said, adding that willingness to move the island forward is also very important.

That willingness, the comptroller said, has much to do with addressing certain problems that she said are inhibiting the island’s progress. One of them involves the “erroneous perception” people have of public service providers.

“Over the past few years, people view all of us public service providers as if we are all corrupt,” Valdivieso said. “Sure, there are people who are corrupt in the system, but the fact is that most of us are not corrupt.”

She added that the misperception in a way creates corrupted people and perpetuates a culture of corruption and a lack of satisfaction with respect to public service providers.

“The pride in being a public service provider is gone,” she said. “I think we need to work on developing that pride again. When you are told constantly that you are a bad person, it’s really hard to not become a bad person. If we can start believing again in public service providers, the ones who watch over the citizens of our island, then we can most certainly help Puerto Rico move forward.”

Valdivieso also talked about the need for a “complete restructuring of the way public service funds are distributed,” and how those funds need to be managed with care to attend to the civic issues that are prevalent in Puerto Rico without wasting any time.

“It’s baffling to me that we are still studying what the essential needs are, when you see that 55% of children are under the poverty line, and on top of that, many people are still suffering the consequences of Hurricane Maria, which happened years ago,” she said. “We have to make sure that we are working with the people who need it the most.”

Regarding government responsibility, the comptroller also noted that “governments were not made to make money, nor to make anyone rich -- the government’s purpose is to serve the ones who need it.”

“The government is not the engine of the economy; the engine of the economy is the private sector,” the comptroller added. “The government’s purpose is not to sustain the economy by itself; if anything, trying to sustain the economy only on public funds is what got Puerto Rico in the economic situation that it is currently in.”

Valdivieso insisted that a real commitment to “cleaning the house” of all public corruption “can do a lot of good for the economy of Puerto Rico.”

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