Puerto Rico’s Pension System: Knocking on Heaven’s Door

This post was originally published on January 27, 2011.

Introduction

The Employees Retirement System of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (the “ERS”) is a trust created by Act 447 of May 15, 1951 to provide pension and other benefits to retired employees of the government of Puerto Rico and its instrumentalities. According to the Management’s Discussion and Analysis included in the ERS’s most recent financial statements, the system “since its inception lacked proper planning.”1 The problem was (and to a certain extent still is) that the level of both employer and employee contributions was relatively low and was not actuarially determined, while the level of benefits was statutorily defined and bore no relation to employee contributions or to the investment yield of the systems assets.

In 1973 the benefit structure was “enhanced” without enacting a corresponding increase in contribution levels. As government employment increased in the mid-to-late 1970s, partially in response to the general economic slowdown, the gap between the assets available to pay benefits and the actuarial obligation began to widen.

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Fierce Debt Puts Pensions at Risk in Puerto Rico

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http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/27/business/puerto-rico-races-to-rescue-its-pension-fund.html?pagewanted=all

The New York Times

November 26, 2012
By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH
Puerto Rico is fighting to stay afloat in a rising sea of debt.

Its economy is sputtering. Its population is shrinking. Its recent election is disputed. Its public pension fund is perilously low on cash. The American territory has just been through a brutal five-year recession, something not experienced in the United States as a whole since the 1930s.

Desperate to raise cash, Puerto Rican officials have been selling off anything they can: two toll roads and the main airport so far.

To bring in tax revenue, they are trying to lure people out of the underground economy. Coffee shops, hairdressers, even outdoor market stalls are being required to issue printed receipts with every sale. The receipts carry a lottery number, with a chance to win cars or cash, as an incentive to get shoppers to pay the island’s 7 percent sales tax. READ MORE

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