Editor’s Note: Mario Marazzi, executive director of the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics, issued the following commentary regarding the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico’s recent letter to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló urging to keep the agency as an independent entity.
We appreciate the statement of the Oversight Board on the desirability that the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics is maintained as a public, independent and standalone instrumentality from the government of Puerto Rico.
In addition, the Board made several recommendations, some of which I wish to comment on. First, they proposed to modernize and update Puerto Rico’s statistical functions and consolidate them at the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics. We share the concerns of the Board and the government, in that the fragmentation of statistical functions result in costly and ineffective processes.
We are at the government’s service to design a reorganization plan dedicated to statistical functions that achieve this goal. It’s never too late to start working together, collaboratively, to achieve shared and desired goals.
Second, the Board joined the expressions of the bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Puerto Rico, also created under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic, Stability Act, to the effect that the Institute should be assigned a higher budget, in line with the important responsibilities it exercises.
This recommendation represents an extraordinary opportunity for the government to meet, for the first time, the budget allocation approved for the Institute in its Organic Law.
Third, the Board recommended that the Institute’s independence is protected from political intervention. This is an extremely sensitive issue that every government with which we have worked with has had to confront, learn, understand, process, accept and eventually take advantage of.
At this time, the Institute oversees and audits the statistical work of the Executive Branch. In any other field, a disruption to the oversight and auditing functions would not be allowed. For example, a baseball team would never be allowed to chose or change or influence the game’s umpire. Why do we think that we can, that we should and that it’s even normal to do so with statistics?
We all suffer from the same misinformation after decades of the politicized and underfunded deterioration of Puerto Rico’s statistical functions.
In the last 10 years, we have had a new instrument, the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics, whose main purpose is to light the way to statistics that are comprehensive, reliable, fast and universally accessible. Let’s take advantage of it.