Last week, members of the Acevedo Vilá administration met with representatives of Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, the credit rating agencies informally known as Moody’s and S&P respectively. When the government of Puerto Rico or one of its agencies issues bonds, these rating agencies analyze various quantitative and qualitative factors that may affect the borrower’s ability and willingness to repay, including, but not limited to, the financial condition of the borrower, the prevailing economic conditions in the island, and the political environment at the time of going to the market.
The availability of high quality, reliable and cost efficient electric power is of strategic importance for the future economic development of Puerto Rico. This means that without access to relatively affordable and reliable electric power it will be extremely difficult, if not outright impossible, to promote sustained growth in basically any area of economic endeavor in Puerto Rico, be it in industrial biotechnology, retail commerce, small and medium enterprises, tourism or services because the cost of electric power is usually one of the top cost drivers in each of these industrial or commercial sectors.
Recently, the Center for the New Economy, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank where I work, published a study analyzing the state of the Puerto Rico electricity sector.
The Acevedo Vilá administration has recently introduced a bill (HR 1579) to impose an additional temporary tax of 4 percent on corporations and partnerships that provide financial services in Puerto Rico. In our view, the proponents of the tax have ignored a basic tenet of economics, namely, that people, including corporations, respond to incentives.
In the 21st century, having access to a basic bank account has been compared to securing access to reliable “electricity, running water and telephone service.” Other commentators have gone further to declare that having access to financial services is “critical to success in the American economy.” Yet in 2002 in Puerto Rico, where we have one of the most advanced financial systems in the world, fully 36% of households did not have a checking or savings account.
Equality and liberty, these two values lie at the heart of all democratic societies. Yet, the tension between them has caused endless debate. If the case for equality is pressed too hard in the name of “maximizing overall social utility” – for example, by taxing the well-off at punishing rates – liberty will inevitably be curtailed.