Archivo de la categoría: Finanzas

Economy and Crime Spur New Puerto Rican Exodus

Economy and Crime Spur New Puerto Rican Exodus

By   FEB. 8, 2014

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SIGNS OF STRUGGLE The makeshift shelter of a homeless person in the city’s downtown. Alvin Baez/Reuters

SAN JUAN, P.R. — Alexis Sotomayor has many reasons to stay in Puerto Rico: his two children; his mother and their gossip sessions over plates of fried rice; and the balm of salt and sun that leavens his life on the island.

But the artisanal soap business that Mr. Sotomayor built is barely hanging on amid rising costs and taxes, and sales that have sunk by 40 percent in five years. Crime is rampant; his girlfriend was nearly carjacked at gunpoint recently. So last month he boarded a flight to Orlando, Fla., to interview for a job at a rum distillery in the hope of joining the ever-growing Puerto Rican diaspora.

“I don’t see it improving,” said Mr. Sotomayor, a 47-year-old chemical engineer. “I see it getting worse. It’s the uncertainty. What am I going to do — wait until it gets worse?”

Puerto Rico’s slow-motion economic crisis skidded to a new low last week when both Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s downgraded its debt to junk status, brushing aside a series of austerity measures taken by the new governor, including increasing taxes and rebalancing pensions. But that is only the latest in a sharp decline leading to widespread fears about Puerto Rico’s future. In the past eight years, Puerto Rico’s ticker tape of woes has stretched unabated: $70 billion in debt, a 15.4 percent unemployment rate, a soaring cost of living, pervasive crime, crumbling schools and a worrisome exodus of professionals and middle-class Puerto Ricans who have moved to places like Florida and Texas.

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A woman walking past a closed restaurant in Ponce, on Puerto Rico’s southern coast. Alvin Baez/Reuters

The situation has grown so dire that this tropical island, known for its breathtaking beaches, salsero vibe and tax breaks, is now mentioned in the same breath as Detroit, with one significant difference. Puerto Rico, a United States territory of 3.6 million people that is treated in large part like a state, cannot declare bankruptcy.

From bottom to top, Puerto Ricans are watching it unfold with a mixture of disbelief and stoicism.

Alejandro García Padilla, who was elected Puerto Rico’s governor by a sliver of a margin in 2012, said that after he began to wade deeply into the island’s economic and social quagmire, his fight-or-flight instincts kicked into high gear.

“I thought about asking for a recount,” Mr. García Padilla, 42, said with a grin during a recent interview in La Fortaleza, the 500-year-old government residence, recalling, among other things, the $2.2 billion deficit. “But now it’s too late.”

A sense of pessimism pervades on the island. Streets are lined with empty storefronts in San Juan and in smaller cities like Mayagüez; small businesses, hit hard by high electricity, water and tax bills and hurt by drops in sales, have closed and stayed closed.

Schools sit shuttered either because of disrepair or because of a dwindling number of students. In this typically convivial capital, communities have erected gates and bars to help thwart carjackers and home invaders. Illegal drugs, including high-level narcotrafficking, are one of the few growth industries.

Puerto Rico, about 1,000 miles from Miami, has long been poor. Its per capita income is around $15,200, half that of Mississippi, the poorest state. Thirty-seven percent of all households receive food stamps; in Mississippi, the total is 22 percent.

But the extended recession has hit the middle-class hardest of all, economists said. Jobs are still scarce, pension benefits for some are shrinking and budgets continue to tighten. Even many people with paychecks have chosen simply to parlay their United States citizenship into a new life on the mainland.

Puerto Rico’s drop in population has far outpaced that of American states. In 2011 and 2012, the population fell by nearly 1 percent, according to census figures. From July 2012 to July 2013, it declined again by 1 percent, or about 36,000 people. That is more than seven times the drop in West Virginia, the state with the steepest population losses.

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“I don’t see it improving. I see it getting worse. It’s the uncertainty. What am I going to do — wait until it gets worse? ALEXIS SOTOMAYOR, 47, a chemical engineer turned artisanal soap maker who is looking for work on the United States mainland Dennis Rivera for The New York Times

A Lack of Hope

Coupled with a falling birthrate, the decline is raising worries about how Puerto Rico will thrive with a rapidly aging population and such a large share of jobless residents. Of the island’s 3.67 million people, only one million work in the formal economy. The island has one of the lowest labor participation rates in the world, with only 41.3 percent of working-age Puerto Ricans in jobs; one in four works for the government.

“Today, Puerto Ricans with jobs are moving to the U.S.,” said Orlando Sotomayor, an economist at the University of Puerto Rico and the brother of Alexis. “Even people in their 40s and 50s, college professors with complete job security, are doing so. Some are starting all over. The phenomenon is highly uncommon and underscores the lack of hope that the ship can or will be righted.”

The current exodus rivals the one in the 1950s, when job shortages on the island forced farmers and rural residents to find factory work in cities like New York and Boston. Today, it is doctors, teachers, engineers, nurses, professors who are leaving Puerto Rico behind.

Just about everyone in Puerto Rico has a relative who left recently for Florida, New York, Texas or Virginia, among others. But the decision is never easy. Fathers leave behind children. Houses must be rented or sold at a loss in a glutted market. Businesses must be shut. And English must be polished, or in some cases learned, in a hurry.

Alexis Sotomayor said that on his January flight to Orlando, two acquaintances sitting nearby were also headed there hoping to find work. “Going out there in the morning and returning in the evening, after an interview,” he said.

After Coca-Cola laid him off in 2001, Mr. Sotomayor started experimenting with distilling plant extracts. He found he could make natural soaps and decided to go into business for himself, a move that would allow him more time to spend with his children.

Business boomed for years. So much so that he moved his homespun facility out of his house in 2005 and into a small building he bought in San Juan. He found that he was earning more money making soap than working as a chemical engineer.

Then in 2008, the recession pounded at his door. For five years, he has tried to lift his business; he went to fairs around the island, set up booths in shopping malls, promoted his flower-infused soaps, candles and lotions on television. He divvied up his store last year and decided to rent out half the building. He let go two of his four employees.

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STAYING AFLOAT Mr. Sotomayor set up his natural soap business in San Juan after Coca-Cola laid him off in 2001. Dennis Rivera for The New York Times

But his expenses mounted, including $600 a month in power bills, more than double what consumers pay on the mainland. The sky-high cost is a consequence of Puerto Rico’s inefficient government-run monopoly on electricity and its 67 percent dependency on petroleum for electric power. Other utilities are exorbitant, too. Last year, water rates rose 60 percent in a bid to help cut the state-run water company’s debt.

The cost of private tuition for his children, a total of $2,000 a month, is one nonnegotiable expense for him. Like most middle- and upper-class Puerto Ricans, he long ago lost faith in the island’s troubled public schools. Public school enrollment has plummeted in recent years, in part because of declining birthrates but also because of the schools’ poor quality.

“Many parents, even lower-middle-class parents, put all their money into their children’s private school, even if sometimes they have to live in rented houses,” said Nilsa Velazquez, an economics professor at the University of Puerto Rico who plans to move to Virginia with her family this summer.

For many, the high rate of violent crime has been the capper. There were 1,136 murders in 2011, a record and far higher than the mainland’s rate. It fell to 883 homicides last year, a point of pride for the governor.

But the damage had been done. Life here has always been full of trade-offs, including a high cost of living. Now, though, there is little left to trade.

‘Live Here Just to Survive?’

“Between making less money and not knowing when someone will jump you, that pushed the quality of life very low,” Alexis Sotomayor said. “To live here just to survive? No, thanks.”

For Ms. Velazquez, the tenured professor who lives in Mayagüez, and her husband, who works for the Air Force Reserve, the mental calculations were similar. She is 50, she said. The last thing she wanted to do was give up her job as an economics professor, move her two teenage children and uproot her 76-year-old mother, who speaks no English and has never left the island.

But she has grown so disillusioned with the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez — one of the crown jewels of the island’s higher-education system, where she has worked for nearly three decades — that she no longer views it as a viable option for her children. In the face of continuing economic stress, the University of Puerto Rico has suffered the loss of a steady stream of valued professors and funding for important research projects. Even tenured professors have left, Ms. Velazquez said.

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Mr. Sotomayor’s factory thrived for years, but now rising expenses are driving him out of business. Dennis Rivera for The New York Times

“The most important thing for me is my children’s education, and the second is my quality of life,” she said. “You see all of these fees and taxes going up, but the streets are terrible.”

This summer she will try to rent out her house rather than selling it and take a loss, and will move to Fairfax County, Va., where her husband will work for the federal government and her children will attend a top public high school. As an economist with a law degree, she is hoping to find some kind of job.

“I thought I could do anything in Puerto Rico,” she said. “Now that is gone.”

The frustrations of Mr. Sotomayor and Ms. Velazquez speak to the depth of the island’s economic problems.

The origins of the crisis, though, stretch back more than a decade. Tax incentives have long been a draw for corporations seeking to do business in Puerto Rico, and the island in turn has benefited from its ability to offer such breaks, in large part structuring its economy around them.

Little was done to try to revamp the island’s economic framework. Instead, deficits climbed and pensions spun out of control. In 2006, the government shut down for two weeks because it lacked the cash to meet expenses. The governor moved to raise taxes. In 2010, the next governor reduced taxes and laid off 33,000 government workers. But Puerto Rico’s governors began borrowing even more heavily to get out of the economic logjam.

“It was cheap and easy to borrow,” said Mike Soto, the president of the Puerto Rican Center for a New Economy. “It got to the point where we tapped out what we can borrow.”

Painful Corrections

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UNDER PRESSURE Gov. Alejandro García Padilla has taken steps to fix the ailing economy, like rebalancing pensions and raising taxes. Dennis Rivera for The New York Times

Last year, Mr. García Padilla, the first governor from the countryside, took over. With the island’s economy a shambles, and credit agencies threatening a downgrade to junk status, he had no choice but to take swift action.

Economists have given him credit for acting to remedy problems that have festered for decades. In one year, he moved to overhaul three major pensions, including for teachers, that were on a pace to run out of money soon. Two of them are still pending final court approval. He reduced the deficit by 70 percent. And he is holding the four main debt-laden government-run companies more accountable and insisting on more transparency.

Vowing not to lay off any more workers, he raised taxes sharply to provide much-needed revenue and then got the legislature to approve incentives to entice wealthy investors, like the hedge fund billionaire John Paulson, who has invested in an exclusive beach resort and condo complex. A number of businesses have left the island, scared away by the groaning economy and the high cost of electricity. But others have arrived or expanded, like Eli Lilly, Seaborne Airlines and Cooper Vision.

Four days before the junk status decision, Mr. García Padilla announced that he would present a balanced budget for next year, one year ahead of his own schedule. But his job just got harder. Analysts said the credit downgrades would make it harder to improve the economy. The governor ordered agencies to cut budgets by 2 percent.

“I’ve done everything I can to avoid a downgrade,” Mr. García Padilla said in an interview, calling the move “unjust.” “Maybe I can’t detain the winds right now, but I can build the windmills. I am an incurable optimist.”

But not everyone is applauding. His tax increases have hit some businesses hard, which could pose a further drag on the economy. Among the many taxes he initiated, the governor raised the corporate tax rate to a maximum of 39 percent. Last year, the economy continued on a slide. “The new administration has a bookkeeping mentality as opposed to an economic development mentality,” said Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in Congress and a political opponent of the governor. “Here you find Puerto Rico with an underlying economic problem charging its corporations — its job creators — 39 percent. Hello!”

Perhaps the most maligned is the new lucrative gross receipts tax, which some owners of small- and medium-size businesses say threatens to put them out of business. Because of the way the tax is structured, it affects companies with less than a 5 percent net profit margin. This means that many food-related companies, like supermarkets, and new businesses, are hit hardest. The smaller the margin, the higher the tax.

Some stores are paying an effective tax rate of 130 percent, said Manuel Reyes Alfonso, the vice president of a trade association that represents the food industry. If the tax is not revised, some will be forced to shut down and others will have to raise prices, he said.

“It is absurd,” said Mr. Reyes Alfonso. “It’s like selling the car to buy gas.”

In response, the governor is forming a committee to take a second look at the new taxes and the island’s complicated tax code. Waivers to the tax are available, but Mr. Reyes Alfonso said they were difficult to obtain.

As he sipped coffee in the bakery section of one of his stores, José Revuelta, the president of SuperMax grocery stores in Puerto Rico, said he managed to expand during the recession. But now, with the gross receipts and corporate tax cutting into his business, he is holding back on capital investments, raises and bonuses. He said he wanted reassurance that the tax hikes would be temporary.

“I can understand doing this on a short-term basis,” he said. “But there needs to be a plan.”

Not many are confident that a long-term plan exists to lift the island from such a sustained crash. But it cannot get much worse, they say.

“Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to restore yourself,” said Mr. Soto, of the Center for a New Economy. “I’m hoping that’s what’s happening.”

A version of this article appears in print on February 9, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Economy and Crime Spur New Puerto Rican Exodus.

Se acabó la fiesta

Tomada de donlinscott.com

Tomada de donlinscott.com

Por Sergio M. Marxuach

Por mucho tiempo, a nadie le importó el precio de los bonos de Puerto Rico, ni las tasas de interés que pagaríamos, ni las comisiones que cobraban los banqueros, ni en qué se iba a gastar ese dinero, ni como lo íbamos a repagar. En verdad, nada le importaba a nadie mientras había dinero. La economía estaba creciendo, el dinero fluía, se estaba “haciendo obra”.  Por otro lado, los banqueros nos aseguraban que la “calle pedía papel”, como si estuvieran hablando de libras de pan.

La decadencia comenzó allá por la década de los setenta. En respuesta a la crisis global, aumentaron las transferencias federales, la nómina pública, y la deuda gubernamental.  Se consiguió la sección 936. Eso fue suficiente para revivir la economía por unos 25 años más y posponer reformas estructurales, dolorosas, difíciles de explicar.  Procedimos entonces a gastar millones en pabellones en Sevilla, en celebraciones del quinto centenario, en juegos centroamericanos en Ponce y Mayagüez, en campañas publicitarias, en contratos de asesores y consultores, en baile, botella y baraja, en faraónicas estaciones de tren, en acueductos, coliseos y natatorios de escala romana.

Todo era bonito, nuevo y brillante. Pero era una prosperidad hueca, una prosperidad falsa que no nos habíamos ganado con el sudor de nuestra frente. Un espejismo basado en una ilusión monetaria, en dinero tomado a préstamo a unas tasas más bajas de lo que los fundamentos de nuestra economía podían justificar. Y cada año había que tomar más dinero prestado sólo para mantenernos en el mismo sitio.

Hasta que llegamos al 2006. Cierra el Gobierno, cunde el pánico entre la clase media del País. Ese tranque no era más que un síntoma, una señal de la quiebra institucional, moral, económica y social de nuestro sistema político. Pero nadie quería hablar de eso.  Se impone el IVU y se crea COFINA.  Esta corporación emite bonos a largo plazo, pagaderos con una porción del IVU que todos pagamos cuando compramos algún articulo de consumo.  El dinero producto de la emisiones de bonos se utiliza para pagar nómina, gastos corrientes, y para refinanciar deuda existente. Sigue la fiesta, se anuncia grandilocuentemente que se ha salvado el crédito, se ha puesto la casa orden, todo está bien. Regresen a la normalidad, por favor, sigan comprando con tarjetas de crédito, hartándose de frituras y viendo La Comay.

Pero la verdad, por más que la tratemos de ignorar o encubrir, tiene la mala costumbre de imponerse en la vida de los pueblos. El castillo de arena que era Puerto Rico se derrumbó. La economía entra en una contracción profunda. La razón de deuda pública al producto nacional bruto se dispara. Cae vertiginosamente la inversión, el empleo, el ingreso y la actividad económica.

El FDIC interviene tres bancos comerciales que se dedicaron en gran parte a financiar una burbuja inmobiliaria que nadie quería admitir estaba sucediendo.  Después de todo, “Puerto Rico es 100 por 35 y no va a crecer más”, según decían los desarrolladores mientras tomaban prestado millones para construir más urbanizaciones. Cientos, tal vez miles de accionistas, muchos de ellos puertorriqueños, pierden miles de millones de su capital.

Poco después el valor de la propiedad inmueble se desploma. Se esfuman miles de millones más del acervo de capital de Puerto Rico. Aumentan las ejecuciones de hipoteca y las quiebras, la emigración llega a niveles que no se veían desde la década de los sesenta.

Entonces quiebra Detroit, ciudad que una vez fuera el corazón de la economía de Estados Unidos, pero que hoy no es más que un “sarcófago postindustrial” en palabras del periodista Charlie LeDuff, autor de Detroit: An American Autopsy. Se estremece el mercado de bonos municipales. Una cosa es que quiebre un pequeño condado de rednecks en Alabama, pero la cuna de Chrysler, Ford y GM, eso es otra cosa.

Como suele suceder cuando ocurren estas sorpresas, el mercado comienza a especular sobre cuál será el próximo domino en caer. Se (re)descubre a Puerto Rico. Una ruina colonial de Estados Unidos abandonada en el Caribe, con tres veces la deuda de Detroit y en franca depresión, donde desde el 2006 la economía se ha contraído por casi 13%, el empleo total se ha reducido por un 18%, y la inversión doméstica fija ha caído por 11%.  Mientras, la deuda pública aumenta 62%, de $43,000 millones en el 2006 a $70,000 millones en el 2013.

Más aún, en términos de pobreza, participación laboral e ingreso per cápita y por hogar, Detroit tiene mejores indicadores económicos que Puerto Rico. Especuladores y traficantes financieros de toda clase y calaña huelen sangre en el agua, se desploman los precios de los bonos de Puerto Rico, comienzan los “margin calls”, corren rumores de vestiduras rasgadas y crujir de dientes en Hato Rey, desaparecen otros miles de millones más de capital local. Se cierran los mercados para Puerto Rico. La degradación acecha, irónicamente la chatarra se vende cara en Wall Street.

Hemos visto cómo todo lo que parecía sólido en Puerto Rico —los bancos, la propiedad inmueble, la deuda gubernamental— se ha desvanecido en el aire, tal y como advirtiera Karl Marx en 1848. Esto no se debe a una situación coyuntural pasajera, o a que nuestros gobernantes no han sabido utilizar bien los poderes que supuestamente tienen. No. Esta crisis es mucho más profunda y va a requerir en este año que comienza que Puerto Rico tome decisiones de naturaleza moral y existencial. Cosa mala esa para un pueblo que no está acostumbrado a la introspección individual ni a la reflexión colectiva.

El 2014 se vislumbra como un año de conflictos sociales, de decisiones difíciles, de convulsiones económicas y políticas, posiblemente de sangre en las calles. Podemos aprovechar esta coyuntura para reconstruir un país quebrado, en franca descomposición, donde las instituciones están podridas y derrumbándose, o podemos decidir seguir viviendo como Alicia en el país de las maravillas.  Decisiones existenciales impostergables. Se acabó la fiesta.

El autor es director de Política Pública en el Centro para una Nueva Economía. Esta columna se publicó originalmente en el diario El Nuevo Día el 31 de diciembre de 2013.

Recuperado de: http://grupocne.org/2013/12/31/se-acabo-la-fiesta/

Bloomberg Essentials: Online Program

Bloomberg Essentials: Online Training Program

La base de datos provee la oportunidad de estudiar el manejo de la plataforma y temas especializados del mercado para obtener cuatro certificaciones del Servicio Profesional Bloomberg ™. Este material didáctico se compone de cuatro videos básicos sobre las funciones básicas de la plataforma  y cuatro videos del mercado correspondientes a un sector específico: Equity Essentials, Fixed Income Essentials, Foreign Exchange Essentials y Commodity Essentials.

El pasado sábado 7 de septiembre, se reunieron en el salón de inversiones 10 estudiantes sub-graduados de diferentes concentraciones de estudio de la FAE para iniciar el estudio del contenido de los vídeos, tomar los exámenes y obtener las certificaciones. Los estudiantes asistentes de la biblioteca Antonio José Torres y Giandré Vence son los mentores del grupo, quiénes asistirán al grupo en el estudio del material.

Felicitamos a los estudiantes por su iniciativa y les exhortamos a completar las cuatro certificaciones que serán de mucho peso en sus resumes. Compartimos con ustedes algunas fotos de la actividad.

2do. grupo certificaciones 2 sept. 2013

2do. grupo certificaciones 3 sept. 2013

2do. grupo certificaciones sept. 2013

Por: Prof. Lourdes Cádiz Ocasio

Libro del mes: Handbook of Finance

Handbook of Finance, editor Frank J. Fabozzi

Si eres estudiante de Finanzas o estás interesado en la materia, te gustará saber que entre las nuevas adquisiciones recibidas en nuestra biblioteca se encuentra el Handbook of Finance, un set de tres volúmenes editado por el renombrado autor Frank J. Fabozzi. El Dr. Fabozzi es profesor de Yale School of Management. Es el editor de Journal of Portfolio Management, y editor asociado de Journal of Fixed Income, Journal of Asset Management, Journal of Structured Finance y de Review of Futures Markets.

Los subtítulos de los tres volúmenes son:

Vol. 1 – Financial Markets and Instruments

Vol. 2 – Investment Management and Financial Management

Vol. 3 – Valuation, Financial Modeling, and Quantitative Tools

Es un recurso muy útil para la selección de un tema de investigación ya que incluye artículos y ensayos escritos por autores prominentes en el área de finanzas. Te invitamos a que pases por la biblioteca para que puedas ver en detalle los temas variados que incluye cada volumen de este recurso bibliográfico. El mismo está localizado en la sección de referencia de nuestra biblioteca y la clasificación es:

HG 173 .H344 2008 Vol. 1-3

Por: Migdalia Barreto Huertas, Bibliotecaria Auxiliar

Ahorrando en Navidad

Durante la temporada de fiestas navideñas los gastos se multiplican.  En momentos en que la situación económica se hace cada día más difícil, muchas personas recurren a sacrificios extraordinarios para cumplir con responsabilidades auto-impuestas debido a las celebraciones.

Te presentamos unos consejitos básicos para que disfrutes la temporada de navidad sin masacrar tu bolsillo.

Planifica las compras. Haz una lista de los artículos que necesitarás.  Incluye en la lista los productos comestibles (para recibir invitados a alguna actividad o fiesta que hagas etc.) regalos y decoración.

Presupuesta los regalos por persona. Asigna una cantidad de dinero por persona para la compra de regalos.  Recuerda que los regalos son un detalle, una forma de agradar y de decir “pensé en ti”.  Los regalos no tienen que ser costosos.

Compara y busca los mejores precios. No te conformes con visitar un sólo establecimiento.  Busca ofertas en periódicos, revistas, internet.  Usa los cupones del fabricante o del suplidor.

Programa tus compras y tus gastos. No compres todo en una misma fecha.  Durante la temporada navideña y previa a ella hay muchas ofertas que facilitan la adquisición de regalos y otros artículos a un bajo costo.

No compres por comprar. Piensa si la persona verdaderamente disfrutará lo que compres y si le será útil.

Guarda los recibos de compra. Identifica cada recibo y saca copia a aquellos que pueden borrarse.

Se original al momento de envolver los regalos. Usa materiales reciclables, por ejemplo: papel de periódico, revistas, tela.  Reúsa las envolturas (cajas, bolsas, papel).

Disfruta de las festividades y de la compañía de tus seres queridos. Haz actividades al aire libre, organiza un almuerzo o cena en la que todos los invitados aporten algo que sea su especialidad en la cocina.

¡Recuerda! la navidad es tiempo de compartir, sin importar cuan saludable tengas el bolsillo. ¡Éxito en tus compras y Feliz Navidad!

 

Editado en diciembre 2019