Puerto Rico Oversight Board Executive Director Natalie Jaresko on Monday cited the almost universal dissatisfaction with the board as proof that it was doing its job.
Creditors are unhappy with the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s bonds, the Kobre and Kim report on the history of the debt problem, and the board’s current effort to invalidate the 2012 and 2014 general obligations, Jaresko said. Puerto Rico’s people and government are unhappy with the board’s power over the budget.
“The fact that [the board’s work is] difficult, and the fact that there is criticism I think is natural to the fact that we are actually achieving something,” Jaresko said.
Jaresko made the remarks after meeting with members of the United States House Natural Resources Committee who had come to Puerto Rico to learn about the effects of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, more than 2-1/2 years after its passage.
On Friday they listened to members of the general public. On Sunday they listened to mayors. On Monday morning they listened first to Ricardo Rosselló and then to Jaresko. Jaresko said she told the Congressional representatives that fiscal responsibility is about making choices and that the board was making those choices.
In response to a question about making PROMESA more humanitarian, she said she thought the act was humanitarian.
She said that the board’s completed closure of 300 primary and secondary schools made not only financial sense but improved the education and services for their students by moving them into schools with more students, teachers, and professionals. She said the board’s planned cuts to the University of Puerto Rico aim at maintaining education quality while reducing the costs of administration.
The board is working so that the government’s budget is structurally balanced and the government can again borrow money. Once this happens, the board will hand over power over the budget to the local government, Jaresko said.
Jaresko said that the board received a proposed fiscal plan from Rosselló on March 11 that was unacceptable. The board is concerned about a lack of detail about implementation. It also disagrees about spending amounts.
On Monday the board released an eight page single-spaced letter to the governor Monday describing its problems with the proposed fiscal plan. It called for the governor to submit a revised plan incorporating the board’s changes by Friday, March 22.
The governor said Monday that his meeting with the Congressional members had been about PROMESA, the reconstruction of the island since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the disbursement of federal funds, and the government’s energy policy.