Puerto Rico's people, new leadership have the power to put the island on a path forward
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The island commonwealth is on the cusp of ruin and the symptoms are debt, corruption and doubt, symptoms left untreated for decades. Activists in the streets of San Juan decry the corruption their parents have faced for years, and a government built on debt, and paralyzed by litigation, emigration and chaos. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation is far from a cure to the Island’s afflictions. Known for its rich culture and once-vibrant economy, Puerto Rico’s future has been sabotaged by its political leaders who have evaded their duty to make tough decisions resulting in nearly irreparable damage.

Nearly irreparable.

Recognizing the territory’s inability to repay its debt, and with mounting creditor litigation, Congress passed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act. The bipartisan PROMESA was designed to protect local power and sovereignty, but also hasten stability in government. The law provides legal tools to forge a path forward – but only if the Puerto Rican government embraces those tools.

PROMESA’s Oversight Board is one tool. It was created to uncover the real scope and scale of the island’s debt, produce audited financial statements, and establish fiscal transparency. It provides legal authorities to restructure Puerto Rico’s debt in an equitable and orderly manner. The board was also equipped to protect Puerto Rico’s public pension funds, which have been abused and neglected for decades. Prior to the enactment of PROMESA, the island’s retired public workforce stood to get pennies on the dollar.

The Oversight Board is tasked with working with the people and government of Puerto Rico to create economic growth and opportunity. On the road ahead, the Oversight Board must find a cooperating partner in the territorial government.

The Rosselló administration did nothing but challenge the Oversight Board at every turn, ignoring the basic foundation of fiscal credibility. The government failed to complete audited financial statements for recent years. Instead, local leaders have done the bidding of special interests. This culture of thwarting the board has prevented necessary policy changes from occurring. Until this dynamic changes, economic recovery will be no more than a wish, mass creditor litigation will continue, and the territory will be unable to restore the confidence it once enjoyed.

The island can once again live up to its reputation of vibrant culture and prosperity. There are voices of reason in the legislature and business community who understand the need for fiscal responsibility. Puerto Rico’s new governor, Wanda Vázquez Garced, must empower these leaders. They are willing to support the board; and the board itself includes public servants with a clear vision. It’s now time for this good influence, support, and vision to lead the island forward.

There are other leaders who inspire optimism. Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón has effectively wielded her influence in Congress to the benefit of her constituents.

Puerto Rico’s people and new leaders have important decisions to make in the weeks and months ahead. These decisions will mean the difference between a path of continued strife and a path toward recovery and self-determination. 

The island’s past has been tough; the present is tragic; but the future can be a triumph.

U.S. Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe House GOP rolls out energy proposal to counter Democrats offshore drilling ban MORE (R-Utah) is the Ranking Republican on the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee.