The Puerto Rican economy has already experienced a “lost decade”—to use the term that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC, coined in the 1980s for Latin America and that has been widely used at the international level since then—and, if no action is adopted soon, it will continue on a negative path for the foreseeable future.
CNE has analyzed Puerto Rico’s economic and fiscal situation for more than a decade. During that period, we have carefully surveyed and considered the socioeconomic context and the rapidly deteriorating financial position of the island, and attempted to address some of the most pressing problems.
El proyecto NO cumple con el principio 1. El HR 5278 le confiere a la Junta de Control Fiscal poderes que exceden los necesarios para ejecutar una función de monitoreo y supervisión fiscal. La Junta será una entidad del gobierno de Puerto Rico pagada con fondos públicos de Puerto Rico, pero no estará sujeta al control o la supervisión de funcionarios locales; podrá forzar la ejecución de recomendaciones que hayan sido rechazadas por el Gobernador o la Legislatura de P.R.; podrá prohibir la ejecución de ciertas leyes, reglamentos, órdenes o contratos; podrá requerir la ejecución de medidas de privatización y comercialización de actividades gubernamentales; y de manejo de los fondos de pensiones de los empleados públicos.
Puerto Rico faces a serious fiscal and economic crisis. The island is over-indebted: with $70 billion in public debt outstanding and an additional $43 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, Puerto Rico has more debt, in absolute terms, than any U.S. state government except California and New York, while its economy is smaller than Kansas. The following chart compares Puerto Rico’s tax–supported debt (excluding debt issued by state-owned enterprises) and unfunded pension burden with three of the U.S. mainland’s lowest rated states.
Puerto Rico’s debt structure is inordinately complicated. With no access to a broad debt restructuring mechanism, the chaos that a disorderly default could bring would further erode bondholder value, increase restructuring costs, depress the local economy, and make long-term recovery harder to achieve.
Puerto Rico’s drawn-out economic and fiscal crisis has prompted a series of debates on how to address a rapidly deteriorating socioeconomic situation. Amongst the options being discussed in the federal sphere is the establishment of a fiscal control board for Puerto Rico, similar to the one adopted in Washington DC, that would essentially command all aspects pertaining to government budgeting and spending. We strongly believe that this is not the only way forward.
As Washington debates whether or not to approve access by Puerto Rico to some version of Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the negative implications of a disorderly default looms large on the horizon of both island residents and bondholders.
What follows is an analysis of Puerto Rico’s current economic and fiscal situation which Sergio Marxuach submitted for the United States’ Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Thursday, October 22nd, 2015.