Economists urge oversight board to use reserve fund for stimulus package

By The Star Staff

Economists Association President Heriberto Martínez urged the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico on Sunday to use money from the debt reserve to create a local economic stimulus package amid the new round of closings ordered by the governor last week.

“We urge the governor and the Board to use this fund to inject liquidity into families and businesses” Martínez said. “If that is not done, we will not be able to tolerate any more restrictions.”

Total non-farm salaried employment in Puerto Rico was 781,900 in May of this year compared to 877,300 in May 2019, a reduction of 95,400 -- an almost 11 percent decline -- according to the most recent statistics from the island Institute of Statistics.

Preliminary numbers for June, which is when the government reopened the economy after shutting down all non-essential businesses on March 15, show employment numbers going up slightly to 803,500 people, but that was still an 8 percent reduction from the same month last year, according to the U.S. Labor Department. However, the government ordered the closing of casinos, bars and gymnasiums last week. It also ordered restaurants to operate at 50 percent capacity. No alcoholic beverages or alcohol purchases can be made after 7 p.m.

The governor’s actions, experts said, would bring the total number of unemployed back up and weaken the economy.

The head of the United Retailers Association, Jorge Arguelles, criticized the governor for reversing economic advances.

“The environment inside a chinchorro is not the same as a restaurant or hotel,” he said. “It is unfair for restaurants to not be able to serve alcohol. At 7 p.m. is when people go to have dinner and alcohol sales are the lion’s share of their sales.”

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