Private sector trade groups discuss S&P downgrade
As word of the decision taken by Standard & Poor’s to downgrade Puerto Rico’s credit rating to junk level, the island’s biggest trade groups spoke out. Following are their individual statements.
Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association
“Faced with the grim announcement of Puerto Rico’s credit cut, it is essential that we line up our efforts to urgently implement tactical measures to reverse the pattern of economic shrinkage that we are facing and that could last four to five additional years. This degradation is bad for all because of its multiplier effect throughout the economy,” said PRMA President Waleska Rivera.
“We know our problems are the result of economic development and fiscal policies dating to 1969 that continue in effect without fundamental changes. Others are the product of legislation that instead of responding to the island’s best interests, respond to political pressures. That’s a mistake we cannot allow to happen again,” she said.
“What’s important is how we get this economy to grow again. We have to get over this moment with concrete actions that are sensitive and fair. Our efforts must focus on economic development to be able to create the valuable jobs the island needs,” Rivera noted.
“We must act now, which is why the PRMA has insisted on its 10 tactics presenting specific recommendations to lower operating costs in Puerto Rico, attract investment, ease access to capital at the lowest cost and promote economic activity in the short term.”
“We have been consistent in emphasizing that the government has to achieve efficiencies to prevent evasion and must reduce its operating costs by implementing extreme austerity measures and performance parameters. It is necessary that our administration is governed by processes that can be evaluated to determine effectiveness and efficiency. It’s time to act for the good of the collective, there is no alternative,” she said.
“We are ready to collaborate with the government so that together, the public and private sectors, can take control of our future,” Rivera said.
Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce
CofC President Jorge Cañellas lamented the credit degradation by S&P, however pledged to continue to “work as the institution has done for more than 100 years to open new avenues of economic development for Puerto Rico.”
“It’s not time to place blame, but to focus all our energies toward solutions of this challenge,” he said.
“Puerto Rico has a wealth of talent. I’m sure that united, working toward the same goal, we can reverse this situation and again achieve the prosperity we so want for this island and all who live here,” said Cañellas.
“The CofC is available to this administration and all organizations wishing to come together to contribute in finding solutions to this new challenge ahead,” Cañellas concluded.
Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association
PRHTA Chairman Ismael Vega sent a message to its members following the downgrade.
“As you may already know, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Puerto Rico’s general obligation bonds to speculative grade. S&P’s report mentions something we all know: “Tourism is a growing sector, although still a modest part of the overall economy…”
“We, the men and women who wake up every day to work to attract more tourists, to serve them better, to make sure they tell their friends about our destination and come back, know better than anyone that we can increase tourism’s contribution to our economy,” he said.
“While we ask from our political leaders to ensure a competitive business environment where we can grow our industry and contribution to the economy, we must also offer our collaboration with renewed resolve. The times require from each one of us a higher degree of commitment than we already have to strengthen Puerto Rico as a tourism destination,” he said.
“We know, because we live it every day, that tourism means new jobs, economic development, and new money for Puerto Rico. I believe Puerto Rico’s hopes of changing the course of a frail economy towards a path of strong and prosperous growth lies in tourism,” Vega said.
“We should not focus on the past or on who’s responsible for the downgrade. We ought to look beyond politics. We ought to work harder than ever before to help Puerto Rico recover,” the hotelier said.
The Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association, together with the Compañia de Turismo, are the ones responsible for the fact that tourism does not play a major role in our economy. With all their permits, paperwork, and impossible restrictions, they have made it untenable for entrepreneurs to enter the market. Thus, it has stagnated. Freedom is the lifeblood of innovation, and they have put a tourniquet on it. No wonder our tourism sector is numb.