Puerto Rico Gov.-elect Luis Fortuño plans to announce additional top government appointments in the coming weeks, including the next treasury secretary and six individuals to serve on the Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico’s board of directors.
The incoming governor, a member of the New Progressive Party, has already nominated Banco Santander of Puerto Rico president Carlos M. Garcia as the GDB’s next president, replacing the outgoing Jorge Irizarry. The bank’s new board will vote on the Garcia nomination when the new administration begins in early January.
“He’s well respected in the industry and understands the challenges we have before us in terms of our budget and in terms of liquidity issues that we’re all facing,” Fortuño said in an interview. “So he’s the right person for this challenge.”
Fortuño, who currently is Puerto Rico’s congressional representative, said that Garcia will be the first GDB president who has also served as president of a commercial bank. Irizarry expressed his support in Garcia’s ability to head the bank, which is the government’s fiscal adviser.
“I’ve known [Garcia] for years and I think he’s an excellent professional,” Irizarry said. “He’s proven his capacity to manage in the financial sector, so I think it’s an excellent choice.”
In addition, Fortuño earlier this week formed a 14-member fiscal advisory and economic reconstruction committee headed by Banco Popular chief executive officer Richard Carrion. That panel will present its initial findings in mid-December and present a final report in March on how best to address the island’s fiscal challenges.
Fortuño pointed out that two of the three former GDB presidents on Carrion’s team were appointed by and served as GDB presidents under former Popular Democratic Party governors. Jose Ramon Gonzalez was a bank president from 1986 through 1989 under then PDP Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon and William Lockwood was head of the bank in 2005 under outgoing PDP Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila.
“I am sending a message that this is very bipartisan,” Fortuño said. “But what they all have in common is that they’re well respected by everyone in the industry.”
Fortuño’s party believes that Puerto Rico should become a U.S. state while PDP members favor keeping the island as a territory. Fortuño beat Acevedo Vila on Nov. 4 in the general elections. Once he is sworn into office on Jan. 2, Fortuño will face the island’s current $1 billion deficit, high unemployment rate, and $46 billion of total outstanding debt.
“We’re going through trying times globally and I pledged during the campaign to work with everyone,” Fortuño said. “And I am showing that not only am I serious about working with everyone, I’m also serious about the fact that the fiscal stability and bringing the budget back into control is our priority,”