Este informe no está disponible en español.


Upcoming Puerto Rico Budget May Break Infrastructure Investment Record

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 professional services.

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, Aponte said.

"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 employees.

"The focus has changed from looking at the government as the main employer and as the employer of all to control unemployment," he added.

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, he added.

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 said.

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 Communications.
For further information please contact

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback