The finances of Puerto Rico’s government are unraveling rapidly. With the commonwealth government broke and scrambling, its Legislative Assembly already has empowered Gov. Alejandro García Padilla to declare a moratorium on all debt payments.
In a report that was kept secret, the Government Development Bank, which is at the center of complex intragovernmental finances, was found last year to be insolvent. Adding together the explicit government debt and the liabilities of its 95 percent unfunded government pension plan, the total problem adds up to about $115 billion.
There is no pleasant outcome possible here. The first alternative available is to deal with many hard decisions and many necessary reforms in a controlled fashion. The second is to have an uncontrolled crisis of cascading defaults in a territory of the United States.
Congress needs to choose the controlled outcome by creating a strong emergency financial control board for Puerto Rico—and to do it now. This is the oversight board provided for in the bill currently before the House Natural Resources Committee. The bill further defines a process to restructure the Puerto Rican government’s massive debts, which undoubtedly will be required.
Some opponents of the bill, in a blatant misrepresentation, have been calling it a “bailout” to generate popular opposition. To paraphrase Patrick Henry , these people may cry: Bailout! Bailout!…but there is no bailout.
Enacting this bill is the first step to get under control a vast financial mess, the result of many years of overborrowing, overlending and financial and fiscal mismanagement.
Again to cite Patrick Henry, “Why stand we here idle?”
- “paraphrase Patrick Henry”: https://www.history.org/almanack/life/politics/giveme.cfm