Puerto Rico’s Debts Are “Not Payable” According to Governor

Puerto Rico's Debts Are

Puerto Rico’s Debts Are “Not Payable” According to Governor

The global economy has been walking a tightrope for some time. Zero interest-rate policies, slow economic growth, and mounting debt means zero room for error.

Puerto Rico is the latest jurisdiction to toss in the towel, with Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla warning that the island is perilously close to falling into a “death spiral”.

“The debt is not payable… there is no other option. This is not politics, this is math,” Garcia Padilla told the New York Times. “But we have to make the economy grow. If not, we will be in a death spiral.”

Puerto Rico, as you can see in the above chart published by the WSJ, has been in a tricky situation for some time. It’s $72 billion of debt for an island of roughly 3.5 million is equal to 70% of economic output. This is a ratio that is at least three times higher than the next highest state or territory in the United States.

The territory, which was ceded to the United States after the Spanish-American War, has been in trouble for awhile. The population growth rate has slowed, emigration is at record levels, and per-capita GDP has dropped over the last decade. Puerto Rico has relied on debt to try to grow the economy, and now credit-rating companies expect the first default to occur this week from the island’s electricity provider, which borrowed $9 billion. Further, the territory has been issuing new debt to pay old debt, and now the government is expected to run out of cash in July.

The Puerto Rico scenario encapsulates the current challenge that the rest of the world faces. Central Banks have pulled out all the stops to try to get growth: QE, increased borrowing, ZIRP, and ongoing currency wars. However, if that growth doesn’t come at the rate needed to get the ball rolling, it makes the debt harder to service. The more leverage, the higher the stakes are. Then all that is needed is one catalyst and things can get ugly fast.

Speaking of defaults: here’s what will happen if Greece defaults, and here is a breakdown of their debt.


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