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Puerto Rico faces austerity measures in the midst of budget disputes | Region



SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – New austerity measures are looming for Puerto Rico after local lawmakers refused to amend labor laws required by a federal control board that said the changes would stimulate the economy of the country. US territory in a 11 year recession.

The board that oversees the island's finances said Friday that it will eliminate a $ 25 million scholarship fund for the largest public university in Puerto Rico, as well as an annual $ 50 million fund for cities and towns that They fight after Hurricane Maria. The council said it will also eliminate an annual Christmas bonus for all government employees starting next fiscal year.

The measures were a blow to Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who had originally promised that Puerto Rican legislators would accept employment at will. which means that private employers could fire workers at any time without having to prove a just cause. A spokesman for Rossello did not return a message to comment.

Meanwhile, the president of the Puerto Rican Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz, who campaigned against changing labor laws, issued a strong statement Friday defending his position and criticizing the junta.

"They threaten without any justification or economic foundation with the elimination of the Christmas bonus, vacations, labor security of the private sector worker, scholarships for students, funds for infrastructure projects and economic development, among other important items," he said. "They threaten to be worse than Hurricane Maria!"

The council said that changing labor laws would attract much-needed investors to the US territory.

Hurricane Maria caused more than an estimated $ 100 billion in damages when it hit Puerto Rico on September 20, and the island is still struggling to recover. More than 2,300 customers remain without electricity and tens of thousands of businesses closed after people fled to the continental United States. UU

While Puerto Rico is expected to experience a brief economic growth as a result of the federal reconstruction dollars allocated after the Category 4 storm, economist José Caraballo told The Associated Press that the island would once again have an economic depression if not Additional measures aimed at development are implemented.

He warned that Puerto Rico would feel the effects of the junta's cuts immediately, adding that it would further depress the island's fragile economy as it struggles to restructure a portion of its public debt burden of more than $ 70 billion. .

"The contraction and the social impact will be much greater than before," he said. "It's not fair, it's basically aimed at the middle class and the lower class."

Disagreement between the board and certain legislators over changing labor laws occurs when the Puerto Rico government is expected to approve a proposed budget of $ 8.7 billion on Friday, which contains $ 69 million for the Christmas bonus.

The council said it would implement its own budget for Puerto Rico if lawmakers do not submit a proposal for Saturday that is consistent with a recently approved fiscal plan and austerity measures.

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