If you want to see what a recovering economy looks like, you need only look to Puerto Rico. Our island has enjoyed an economic turnaround and is emerging from recent challenges stronger and more successful than ever before.
The turnaround began with the Jobs Now Act, the first law I enacted after becoming Governor. This law provides new grants, tax exemptions and energy consumption credits to businesses, both local and foreign-owned, of all sizes. By encouraging business growth, the Jobs Now Act has helped create over 30,000 jobs, and my administration is committed to creating 20,000 more in the upcoming months.
What makes these successes so notable are the challenges we had to overcome. Years of kicking the can down the road and postponing tough choices meant historic economic problems for Puerto Rico.
- Gov. Alejandro García Padilla
But the Jobs Now Act was only the first step. Last year, the public employees retirement system was going broke. This was not a problem that called for small thinking. Instead, we took on a tough challenge and put forth an effective long-term solution. As a result, my administration has enacted the most comprehensive, meaningful and sweeping pension reform in Puerto Rico's history, saving the Commonwealth's Employees Retirement System and guaranteeing its solvency for decades to come. Our efforts have also reformed the retirement system for our Island’s judiciary, protecting their retirement savings while stabilizing our economy. We hope to do the same with the teachers pension very soon.
Overcoming years of political inaction, we have weaned our public utilities off from state subsidies and helped them become self-sustaining businesses. These reforms have helped reduce the cost of electricity by more than 16 percent, as we diversify our energy portfolio and invest in renewable energy and natural gas projects which will lower the cost even more.
These and other fiscal measures have bolstered Puerto Rico’s treasury. In fiscal year 2014, we enjoyed a revenue increase of $335 million – a full $79 million above previous budget estimates. At the same time, we have worked to aggressively reduce our deficit, saving $65 million between July and November of last year alone. I am pleased to report that we have already cut the deficit by 62 percent. Before my term in office, Puerto Rico had a projected deficit of $2.2 billion.
We have also made Puerto Rico a destination for people and businesses from around the world. Companies like Infosys, Eli Lilly, Puma, Seaborne, Propper International, Crowley, Coopervision and Bristol Meyers have all grown and invested in Puerto Rico in the last year alone. And for the first time, airlines like Avianca and Southwest fly to Puerto Rico. New routes from Air Europa, JetBlue, and Seaborne Airlines mean our Island is more connected to the world than ever before. To meet this rapidly-growing demand, our largest airport is undergoing significant renovations for the first time in years and hotels are opening at an historic rate across the Island.
What makes these successes so notable are the challenges we had to overcome. Years of kicking the can down the road and postponing tough choices meant historic economic problems for Puerto Rico. We’ve had to overcome and make up for the 135,000 lost jobs and 40,000 bankruptcies that were ravaging our economy.
In 2012, the voters of Puerto Rico entrusted me with the honor and responsibility of guiding the Island through these troubled times. My administration has responded with vigor, and we have put our economy on track for sustainable economic growth. Our strategy of creating jobs and economic development has proved to be the winning model to rebuild our economy, and it is the model we will continue to follow in the months and years to come.
Alejandro García Padilla is the Governor of Puerto Rico.