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A Bipartisan Economic Development Agenda


November 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

At press time Monday, almost a full week after Election Day, we still don’t know who will be governor of Puerto Rico during the next four years.

Chances are we won’t know for weeks, maybe not even until the end of the year.

The preliminary results certified by State Elections Commission President Aurelio Gracia the day after the poll gave the New Progressive Party (NPP) a clean sweep of the elections, including absolute control of both the House and the Senate, 43 out of the 78 municipalities, and the resident commissioner post in Congress.

But they also gave Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila a razor-thin margin of 0.2% out of the almost two million votes cast for governor.

If that result prevails after all the processes of count and recount are over, elected officials from both parties will have to put their heads together to figure out how to make this bitterly divided and bitterly partisan island move forward in the next four years.

It won’t be easy. In the past few days, leaders of both parties have dug in their heels by announcing to their constituencies and the opposition that they intend to impose their respective party’s platform.

NPP legislative leaders have interpreted the overall results of the election as a mandate to implement their party’s initiatives, programs, and public policy. Meanwhile, Acevedo Vila and leaders from his party have said that in Puerto Rico, the position of governor is the one that’s really important and powerful and that to acquiesce to the NPP position would be to undermine the will of the people.

In other words, they haven’t even started the four-year term and they are already at loggerheads with each other. One can almost hear the stridency of the 2008 election campaign, with both major parties blaming each other for obstructing their otherwise lofty intention of delivering good government to the people.

But what about the four years between now and then? Are we doomed to four years of a do-nothing government, where the executive and legislative powers torpedo each other’s initiatives for partisan political gain?

We can’t afford that. Puerto Rico’s economy can’t allow another four years to be wasted in governmental paralysis and ineffectiveness. Not after the terrible four years we’ve just had.

So, as a public service to both our readers and the would-be-elected government leaders, our front-page story today examines the points of convergence between the NPP and PDP platforms. Many readers will find surprising the number of things on which the two parties agree. Perhaps they call their particular programs or proposals by different names, but many of them share the same concept. Elected officials may find in our story a place to start the year on a positive note before they go at each other’s throats. Readers will have a record by which to judge their representatives come 2008.

Although rare, a divided government isn’t a first in Puerto Rico’s history. And it need not be a waste. The Ferre administration, which confronted a House and Senate controlled by the PDP, was one of the most active and productive, with an economic development agenda and an infrastructure development and expansion program that still inspires awe today.

Finally, the airtight election results this year and the early reports of countless errors in the tally are the best arguments we can think of to support the call we made in our editorial last week.

"Puerto Rico’s voting and counting system needs a serious technological update," we said. "A system that depends so much on humans is so much more prone to human error." And when so many of those humans are political partisans, the possibility of error is greatly augmented.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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