The seven-member Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico is expected to meet sometime next week for the first time since being constituted by President Obama to address the island’s economic crisis, Richard Ravitch, who will represent the Commonwealth’s governor in the body, said Monday.
In a meeting with reporters, Ravitch, former Lieutenant Governor of New York, said since accepting Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla’s request to participate in the Board’s proceedings on his behalf, without pay, he has already spoken to a number of its members.
“I would say that of the four members that I’ve had conversations with, they’re all eager to learn. Nobody has any detailed knowledge of what’s happening here; some have a historical perspective,” he said, adding he has interacted with Ana J. Matosantos, David A. Skeel Jr., Andrew G. Biggs and Arthur J. González.
Jose B. Carrión III, Carlos M. García, and José R. González round out the group of Board members. The board is expected to meet in Washington, Ravitch said.
As for his reasons for accepting doing “pro-bono” work for Puerto Rico, he said, “I care a lot about what’s happening here and am very concerned. Because of the fact that I know something about the subject matter, and have been involved in the last 18 months with Puerto Rico, I thought I might be helpful.”
“I’ve never solicited any public office and I’ve had a many of them. When I was asked [to do this] I agreed,” said Ravitch, who has participated in the debt restructuring process New York undertook in the mid-70s, among other similar proceedings.
As for how much the appointed Board members know about Puerto Rico’s situation, Ravitch noted “there will be a steep learning curve and I think any rational person will come to the conclusion that there’s a serious problem here that you don’t resolve it by reducing the size of the government or creating more poverty.”
“I’m an optimist. I can’t imagine anybody willing to work on this Board without caring about Puerto Rico,” he added.
Ravitch said his expectation is that García-Padilla will have “something to say in a week or so about what problems the government’s fiscal plan will address. One will have to do with the need Puerto Rico has for help from Washington.”
The fiscal plan, he said would likely reflect a grimmer situation than what was laid out in the Fiscal and Economic Growth Plan unveiled earlier this year.
Furthermore, he rejected the notion that “Congress has been hostile in its treatment toward Puerto Rico,” but rather that a Republican-controlled U.S. House and Senate “have other things on their minds. Everybody in Washington is consumed with the elections.”
“Most don’t have a significant Hispanic constituency and I don’t know to what extent the problems of Puerto Rico have been well understood by people of Hispanic origin who live in the states and are preoccupied with their own lives over what’s happening here,” he said.
However, he said that the Board “will eventually come to recognize that their recommendations will be important to Congressional action, while the people of Puerto Rico and creditors will come to the realization that help from Washington is essential” to pull the island out of its downward economic spiral.