Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 5th 2017 Contents BG10 | REGIONAL
BUSINESS GUARDIAN guardian.co.tt JANUARY 5 • 2017
Puerto Rico's new governor was
sworn in Monday, promising an
immediate push for statehood
in a territory facing a deep eco-
Gov Ricardo Rossello, 37,
proposed several measures aimed at allevi-
ating the crisis shortly after he was sworn in
at midnight. Among them is a proposal to hold
a referendum that would ask voters whether
they prefer statehood or independence. Many
have argued that Puerto Rico's political status
has contributed to its decade-long crisis that
has prompted more than 200,000 people to
flee to the US mainland in recent years.
"The United States cannot pretend to be
a model of democracy for the world while it
discriminates against 3.5 million of its citizens
in Puerto Rico, depriving them of their right
to political, social and economic equality un-
der the US flag," Rossello said in his inaugural
speech, delivered in Spanish. "There is no way
to overcome Puerto Rico's crisis given its co-
The crowd rose to its feet and cheered as
Rossello announced that he would fly to Wash-
ington, DC, Monday to back a bill to admit
Puerto Rico as the 51st state.
He also said he would soon hold elections to
choose two senators and five representatives
to Congress and send them to Washington to
demand statehood, a strategy used by Ten-
nessee to join the union in the 18th century.
The US government has final say on whether
Puerto Rico can become a state.
Rossello said he also aims to boost pub-
lic-private partnerships and use that revenue
to save a retirement system that faces a US$40
billion deficit and is expected to collapse in less
than a year. He pledged to work closely with a
federal control board that US Congress creat-
ed last year to oversee Puerto Rico's finances,
and he has said he supports negotiations with
creditors to help restructure a public debt of
nearly US$70 billion.
"Puerto Rico's recovery begins today," said
Rossello, a scientist with no political experi-
ence and the son of a former governor who also
sought statehood for Puerto Rico.
Rossello announced that he has already
signed six executive orders, including one
to promote bilingual education, another to
provide female government employees with
the same pay as their male counterparts, and
a third ordering agencies to reduce their budg-
ets and contracts for professional services by
10 per cent.
He also seeks to privatise services such as
the generation of energy, establish an office
to oversee and distribute federal funds to cut
down on corruption, and to create financial
incentives for doctors to boost the number of
Thousands of supporters cheered as they
clutched umbrellas to protect themselves from
a searing sun.
"This is a historic moment for Puerto Rico,"
said 50-year-old Jose Davila as he waved a large
flag from Rossello's pro-statehood New Pro-
gressive Party. "He's the hope of our island,
he's the hope for statehood, he's the hope for
a people that have suffered."
Puerto Ricans have been hit with dozens of
new taxes in the past four years and increases
in utility bills as former Gov Alejandro Garcia
Padilla aimed to generate more revenue for a
government he said was running out of money.
Despite those and other measures, the island's
government has defaulted on millions of dol-
lars' worth of bond payments and declared a
state of emergency at several agencies.
The federal control board has requested
a revised fiscal plan that has to be approved
by end of January, saying that the one Garcia
submitted last year was in part unrealistic and
relied too heavily on federal funds.
Garcia had refused to submit a revised plan
to include austerity measures. Rossello has said
he would request an extension of that deadline
as well as an extension of a moratorium that ex-
pires in February and currently protects Puerto
Rico from lawsuits filed by angered creditors.
As supporters streamed early on Monday
toward the Capitol building, one yelled out,
"Today, a new Puerto Rico begins!" to the
cheers of others. AP
Tourism key to US-Caribbean interests
The Caribbean must ensure
issues of critical socioeco-
nomic importance are firm-
ly addressed with the US
Congress and the incoming
administration, according to
Karolin Troubetzkoy, President of the Carib-
bean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA).
Troubetzkoy commented on this during
her presentation on the impact on the tour-
ism industry of de-risking and correspondent
banking relationships at a tourism conference
in Miami, produced by the Caribbean-Central
American Action (CCAA) organisation.
Underscoring the common interests be-
tween the Caribbean and the United States
and the critical importance of tourism to the
region's socioeconomic development and
stability, Troubetzkoy called for a new focus
by the region's governments and private sec-
tor in support of recent legislation aimed at
strengthening United States relations with
CHTA has joined CCAA in urging the US
Senate to adopt the US-Caribbean Strategic
Engagement Act of 2016 (HR 4939), which
has already received bipartisan support in the
House of Representatives, and just this week
moved out of Senate Committee for consid-
eration now by the full Senate.
HR 4939, introduced by Congressman Eliot
L Engel (D-NY) with Congresswoman Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl), would require the US
Secretary of State and the administrator of
the US Agency for International Development
(USAID) to submit to Congress a multi-year
strategy focused on enhancing engagement
with the countries of the Caribbean.
The draft legislation, which emphasises en-
ergy security, countering violence, expanded
diplomacy, engagement with the private sector,
and other priority areas, sets the stage for a
new US-Caribbean relationship, declared
Troubetzkoy, who met with Congressman
Engel during the conference.
Before Congress adjourns, CHTA is support-
ing the outreach by CCAA to the US Senate to
advance passage of the legislation in the Sen-
ate.Troubetzkoy also recalled a key US policy
which underscored the special relationship
between the United States and its Caribbean
"We must also not forget the Third Border
Initiative and our envoys must convey to the
new administration that the Caribbean's suc-
cess is in the strategic interest of the United
States of America."
Congressman Engel noted: "We spend a
great deal of time focusing on challenges and
opportunities in faraway places. But it's im-
portant that we never lose sight of our interests
closer to home. Indeed, we should be working
to strengthen our ties with countries in the
Caribbean. That's the aim of this bill, which
would prioritise US-Caribbean relations for
years to come."
Troubetzkoy called for continued ac-
tion on priority areas such as "de-risking"
or "de-banking," in which large US banks,
sensitive to fraud and money-laundering
allegations, end their business connections
with smaller banks in other regions like the
De-risking threatens the Caribbean region's
smaller banking sector which operates in ju-
risdictions which host overseas banking fa-
cilities. For many hotels and tourism-related
businesses in the region, there are limited
banking options in their destinations.
Troubetzkoy asserted the Caribbean is suf-
fering more than others from de-risking, as
trade is affected directly. Tourism is the largest
income generator in the region, and she urged
the sector to be more alert to the threat.
"The Caribbean tourism industry must pay
close attention to the very serious effects the
withdrawal of correspondent banks would have
on our industry," said Troubetzkoy, adding that
these long-standing banking relationships are
vitally important to the region's survival. "If
the industry is disrupted and we are unable to
interact with overseas buyers and clients, the
consequences will be dire."
The annual Conference on the Caribbean and
Central America tackles issues which affect
the region's economic growth and compet-
The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Asso-
ciation (CHTA) is the Caribbean's leading
association representing tourism interests
for national hotel and tourism associations.
For more than 50 years, CHTA has been the
backbone of the Caribbean hospitality indus-
t r y. Caribbean360.com
Gov Ricardo Rossello is sworn in at the seaside Capitol in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, Jan 2,
2017. The US territory is preparing for what many believe will be new austerity measures and a
renewed push for statehood to haul the island out of a deep economic crisis. AP
Puerto Rico's new governor promises
immediate push for statehood
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