Friday, May 12, 2006

Things Back To "Normal" In Puerto Rico

From the AP: Puerto Rico Ends Government Budget Crisis

Well, it seems that finally things have been worked out in Puerto Rico and that there will be a semblance of normality back by Monday. A $741 million dollar loan has been approved, with repayment funds to come from various sources, including a yet-to-be-determined sales tax, the first overt one for the island (we normally pay an import tax and something akin to a Value Added Tax that is already added to an item's price, with few things avoiding it, such as books and other material with pre-printed prices).

It is an unfortunate truth that, in order for this solution to be reached, an independent panel had to be set up to break the stalemate of the two main political parties (we have a third one, but they really don't play that big a part). There was even a hint of a threat by the president of the main oppossition party that the Legislature was under no obligation to honor whatever solution was reached by the panel (this a day after stating for all the news cameras the exact opposite).

At least my Mom, along with 95,000+ public employees will be able to go back to work on Monday, and will indeed get paid their salary for the time they were out. Unfortunately, I still don't think things will be much better in the near future, nor that the administration will be able to avoid this fiasco from repeating itself next year, so I am urging my Mother to continue with her plans to move to Orlando, along with my sister and nephew, where they will be able to earn almost 1/3 more than what they earn right now doing exactly the same thing, with the added bonus of having the family together again (it is a lot easier, after all, to drive 4 hours to Orlando from Miami than to fly 2 1/2 to Puerto Rico).

The damage to my island, however, is done, and I don't know if there is any damage control that can take care of it. These shameful news have been broadcast worldwide, and that will impact our tourism industry, one of the (if not the) biggest sources of income for the island. (a news site for Travel Agents & Suppliers) reported that the tourism industry in the island was strong, despite the shutdown, though they make no mention of the ports having been blocked by a protest earlier this week, or the fact that the president of the Hotel and Tourism Association said that at least 20% of reservations had been cancelled due to the government shutdown. To that you can add the sudden and sharp decrease in the spending patterns of Puerto Ricans, who basically cut off all non-essentials from their shopping lists (and you need to understand, we are a nation of spenders), thus decreasing the amount of sales, which in turn decreased the operational budgets of many stores. To give a concrete example, my sister, who works retail at a women's accessory store, went from 40 hours/week to 20 hours this past week. That's a full one-half of her income right there, and she's not the only one I have spoken to in the same situation. And this in just two weeks! I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if this situation had gone on for a month or more.

I'm glad a solution was reached, but I am not confident enough anymore to trust the government of the island to take care of my family.

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