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MIDA Proposes Consolidating Municipalities
Of The Islands 78 Municipalities, 62 With Populations Under 50,000 Would Be Merged
By TAINA ROSA
September 18, 2003
The Chamber of the Food Marketing & Distribution Industry (MIDA by its Spanish acronym) has suggested consolidating the municipalities in Puerto Rico, of which there are 78, to reduce the size of the government and save money.
"It isnt necessary to have so many municipalities in a territory of only 3,500 square miles," MIDA President Atilano Cordero Badillo told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. "Right now, 79% of the 78 municipalities have fewer than 50,000 inhabitants, and only 9% have more than 100,000. Since some municipalities are so small, they are financed by the central government," he said.
Cordero Badillo proposes consolidating municipalities that have few inhabitants. "All municipalities should have a minimum of 50,000 inhabitants," he said. "As in the central government, the large number of municipalities, each with its own highly bureaucratic government, represents inefficiency and a very high cost to taxpayers."
Cordero Badillo said the most important benefit of consolidation would be that the larger populations would give municipalities greater access to federal funds. "Many municipalities must form consortiums to be able to qualify for federal funds. If they are consolidated, they would no longer have to do this," he said.
He added that once consolidated, municipalities should take charge of building and maintaining their public schools and hospitals. The Department of Education should be responsible for creating the schools curricula and licensing teachers.
Cordero Badillo also recommends that each consolidated municipality have a public healthcare facility, whether it be a small hospital or an emergency room. "Right now, the smallest municipalities arent able to pay for healthcare facilities," he said. "When they are consolidated into larger municipalities, however, they will have access to these facilities."
Even though Cordero Badillo and MIDA are sure consolidation will yield greater operational and cost efficiencies, not all of the municipalities mayors agree. Lajas Mayor Marcos A. Irizarry, for example, firmly rejects the idea. Lajas has a population of only 26,261, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Caguas Mayor Willie Miranda Marin agrees with MIDAs proposal. In fact, he says he has been suggesting it for four years. "Many will be against consolidating municipalities for purely cultural reasons, but we must realize Puerto Rico doesnt need 78 municipalities. About 40 would do just fine," he said. "This doesnt mean the municipalities will just disappear; they will retain their identities but consolidate their administrative functions."
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.