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Upcoming Puerto Rico Budget May Break Infrastructure
OMB Director Aponte won't say much about government's
upcoming fiscal year 2001, but he certainly has goals in mind
by Ivonne Garcia
February 10, 2000
Copyright © 2000 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.
The budget soon to be presented by the governor is a zealously
guarded secret, but Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director
Jorge Aponte can say one thing--he wants to break the 20% mark
in the amount spent by the government on infrastructure.
"I'm going to put myself in an uncomfortable position
because if I don't break that mark, somebody is going to break
my neck," Aponte said with a smile during a recent exclusive
interview with CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.
The budget for fiscal year 2001 is the last one that Aponte
will prepare under the tenure of Gov. Pedro Rossello, who announced
last year that he will not seek reelection. Aponte is one of the
few remaining agency heads that started with Rossello during his
first term in 1993.
In the current consolidated fiscal 2000 budget, which totaled
about $19.9 billion, infrastructure investment reached $3.3 billion,
representing a 17% slice. That is up from fiscal 1993, when infrastructure
investment totaled $1.6 billion, or 12% of the consolidated budget,
which includes both local and federal money, Aponte said.
"Investment in infrastructure helps the economy because
it not only improves facilities, such as transportation, but it
also produces jobs," the OMB chief added.
The hike in infrastructure investment also is reflected in
the percentage of taxpayers' dollars used for public works, or
capital improvements, and what goes to cover the government's
operational expenses, including payroll, facilities rental, and
In fiscal 1993, the government spent 75% of its dollars on
operational expenses while six years later, that number was reduced
to 71%, according to OMB documents. The trimming of such expenditures
has been concomitant with a hike in infrastructure projects, including
highways, the Urban Train, and the Superaqueduct, among others,
"That's part of the challenge of the budget that we're
putting together now," he said. "To make sure that we
keep up that trend."
The upcoming budget also is expected to reflect a 5% decline
in the number of central government workers. From 232,000 central
government employees that existed when Rossello took office, Aponte
said they are aiming to close fiscal 2000 with less than 220,000
"The focus has changed from looking at the government
as the main employer and as the employer of all to control unemployment,"
Whittling down the government payroll from representing 25%
of all the jobs in Puerto Rico to making up about 20% has involved
taking several steps, Aponte said.
"This has been possible because there has been control,"
he said. "Control means that you allow employment [to grow]
in those areas which you have strategically determined to be your
priority, while promoting for the number remain to constant or,
if it drops, for it not to increase in areas which are not priorities."
That is why the government has boosted the number of police
officers by 9,000, as well as increased the number of social workers
and firefighters, he said. Meanwhile, the government also has
taken advantage of attrition and early retirement windows to lower
the total number of people who work for a government paycheck,
At his agency, Aponte has used retraining as a tool to reassign
people whose jobs were not in synch with the most recent technological
advances. Those employees have been retrained in the new information
technology and are now training others, he said.
"The people who before lagged behind because they had
an old typewriter are now trainers," Aponte said.
An additional point likely to be emphasized in the upcoming
budget is how salary increases--to teachers and police officers,
among others--have improved the government's productivity. Between
fiscals 1993 and 1999, the government has spent $3.7 billion in
salary hikes, Aponte said.
"In the current fiscal year, payroll and its related expenses
totaled $5.5 billion," Aponte said.
Government workers at OMB, who get the scoop on what fiscal
2001 contains, will first churn it out electronically and then
put it on paper. Starting a few years ago, the agency began preparing
a computerized budget rather than one that gets done in black
and white first and then transferred to the virtual world, Aponte
Once ready, the budget is printed on a special printer that
adds page numbers and page divisions.
"Then we make the 80 or 90 copies that are the copies
of record but the budget is first produced electronically,"
Aponte said, noting that this also has represented a big change
in the way government used to do business.
This Caribbean Business article appears
courtesy of Casiano
For further information please contact www.casiano.com