The seven members of the fiscal oversight board that will run Puerto Rico’s affairs were announced this week, and four are Puerto Rican.
The board – officially known as the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico – comprises four Republicans and three Democrats. They are the unelected people who will run Puerto Rico’s affairs for the next five years or so as they attempt to untangle the island’s $72 billion debt problem.
“These officials have the breadth and depth of knowledge that is needed to tackle this complex challenge and put the future of the Puerto Rican people first,” Obama said in a press release.
In a letter to board members, Chicago Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, who is Puerto Rican and an opponent of the fiscal board, asked each “to make a public commitment to the Puerto Rican people that you will conduct your work on the control board transparently and in the mother tongue of the people who will be deeply impacted for years to come by your decisions.”
In a surprise to many people – and a nod to island political sensibilities – four of the board members are Puerto Rican, all with banking, finance, equity fund or bankruptcy experience. But Gutiérrez declared no faith in the move.
“Just because many of the members of the Junta de Control are Puerto Rican does not inspire trust in Puerto Rico, because some of the worst injustices committed against the Puerto Rican people in recent years have come from officials who are Puerto Ricans themselves,” he wrote.
Here are the board members:
- Andrew G. Biggs – A resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and an expert on Social Security. (Republican)
- Jose B. Carrión III – President and principal partner of HUB International CLC, LLC, insurance brokers. Carrión also has experience in workers’ compensation. (Republican and Puerto Rican)
- Carlos M. García – Former president of the Government Development Bank of Puerto Rico, the “bank” that helps government agencies, municipalities and public corporations obtain financing and which itself is now broke. He also was affiliated with Santander Holdings, the Spanish banking giant. (Republican and Puerto Rican)
- Arthur J. González – Senior fellow at New York University School of Law, formerly a judge on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York and New York school teacher. (Democrat)
- José Ramón González – CEO and president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York with previous ties to Santander and First Boston. (Democrat and Puerto Rican)
- Ana J. Matosantos – President of Matosantos Consulting and previous budget director of California. She also has health and veteran affairs experience. (Democrat and Puerto Rican)
- David A. Skeel Jr. –Professor of corporate law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School with experience in reorganization and finance. (Republican)
The fiscal control board not only is expected to establish payment plans to whittle down Puerto Rico’s bond debt but also essentially restructure the economy, which is in the 10th year of an economic recession that has boosted migration levels to the states to historic proportions, particularly Florida.
Big tasks that lie ahead are jumpstarting the private economy, now choked with overregulation; dealing with public underfunded pensions, representing over $40 billion that’s not included in the $72 billion debt tally; a public health crisis that is apart from the Zika virus contamination; and a public education system that has significantly fewer students, prompting school closings.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor