Puerto Rico’s new Governor takes over as debt crisis reaches climax

by | Jan 3, 2017 | Bocaítos | Comments

New year, new governor. Wasting no time, at approximately 12:01 am, Ricardo Rosselló was sworn in as Governor of Puerto Rico. The new term gives the New Progressive Party the chance once again, to tackle the ongoing economic crisis, and the new governor has indicated part of its efforts will go towards addressing the status issue, demanding statehood for the US territory.

Ricardo Rossello, a 37-year-old former medical researcher, took office on Monday, ushering in a change of power after the island skipped payments on a growing share of debt under predecessor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, a member of the opposing party.

Faced with projected budget deficits over the next decade nearly as large as its $70 billion public debt, Rossello said he plans to start tightening the government’s purse strings in his first few days in office. He immediately signed orders for agencies to reduce 10 percent of spending by the end of the fiscal year in June and cut the number of political appointees.

“Once we get to our first budget, we’ll make even more adjustments and cuts,” Rossello said in a telephone interview from San Juan, adding that an additional 10 percent of spending would later be cut. “We’re taking the immediate steps that are necessary.”

The measures are aimed at closing the chronic deficits that pushed the government to the brink and prompted the federal government to install an oversight board authorized to approve the budget and any restructuring of debt. That’s left Rossello with considerably less power than any of his predecessors, including his father, who led the commonwealth in the 1990s.

Rosselló’s optimism aside, the situation looks bleak in terms of action by Congress. Historically Republicans have ignored the status issue, as well as any other request from the islands. This term however, there is a slight chance for a different scenario, since Jenniffer González was sworn in today as Puerto Rico’s first woman, youngest and fourth Republican Resident Commissioner, the non-voting sole representative of the US territory in Congress.