Where is the shared sacrifice? There are already too many government workers in Puerto Rico relative to the overall population. It’s easy to give away money that’s not your own. Taken to its logical conclusion, this is a race to the bottom, as competing politicians will fight to promise to give away the most “free” stuff. However, it’s not free. Someone always has to pay for it! In this case, the taxpayers.
THINK STRATEGICALLY: Government Employees, Keeping Your Job is Your Bonus
This past week, Sen. William Villafañe, who is a former La Fortaleza chief of staff, proposed to amend Act 66 of 2013 to grant a bonus of up to $500 “to all government employees who have worked” during the lockdown decreed March 15 to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus in Puerto Rico. This measure was introduced for the Senate’s consideration the very same day the U.S. Labor Department reported that 33.4 million people, or 20% of the labor force, filed for unemployment, raising U.S. unemployment to 14.5%.
Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, there have been 219,110 unemployment claims filed, and unemployment is said to have surpassed 32.11%.
Let’s look at the numbers:
- The Total Labor Force in Puerto Rico as of 04/25/2020 was 856,124
- The Total Private Sector Labor force in Puerto Rico as of 04/25/2020 was 682,300
- The Total Government Labor Force in Puerto Rico as of 4/25/2020 was 201,900
- The Puerto Rico Department of Labor reported there were 219,110 initial jobless claims and 452,409 continued claims seeking unemployment benefits.
- Using these numbers, there is 32.11% of the Total Private Sector labor force that is newly unemployed and 66.3% of the Total Private Sector Labor Force that continues unemployed.
All 201,900 government employees on payroll have continued to receive their pay every 15th and 30th of the month. Close to 70% of all government employees have remained at home without working, only venturing to the supermarket or drugstore. We are not only paying their wages while not working, but also allow them to accumulate vacation and sick leave days.
As if that were not enough, Villafañe wants to pay them an additional $500 bonus for being at home.
Since 2006, the private sector has been adjusting: absorbing more than 150 new tax laws; accepting the highest sales tax in the nation, 11.5%; and allowing the government to handle and mismanage our funds. Yes, our funds. You see, the government of Puerto Rico does not create any wealth, jobs or value. It spends and mismanages all the capital and wealth the private sector creates. So during those 14 years, more than 650,000 Puerto Ricans have been forced to leave the island. The government allowed its payroll to increase 6.5% every year since 1999, an increase just shy of $3.5 billion.
While the private sector suffers as it adjusts to the pandemic, we have over 452,409 private-sector employees who are without jobs and most without the unemployment benefit checks that the Department of Labor was supposed to process. We want to send a message to Sen. Villafañe and any senator or politician who voted in favor of giving the government employees the $500 bonus.
Right now, with all the suffering on the island, all government employees must understand that “Keeping Your Job is Your Bonus.” So please don’t seek a bonus this year, while the world is in crisis. We would like to see a little compassion and empathy towards the private sector, which creates all the wealth that the government is so quick to mismanage.
So, government employees, make sure you understand that “Keeping Your Job is Your Bonus.”
In the end, we must ask ourselves, are we practicing integrity to disburse bonuses while 66.9% of the Private Sector Labor Force is jobless, and 100% of the Government employees are receiving their checks?
The answer is quite apparent; this Senate bill should have never seen the light of day.
The Final Word: When lost, humans walk in circles
All scientific studies show that when lost, humans walk in circles. Have you ever gotten lost when driving or in a forest, like El Yunque, or anywhere without any landmarks? If you did, you most likely went around in circles.
As this most recent crisis engulfed Puerto Rico, we noticed that many of our political leaders seemed lost and have been walking in circles.
When people ask how Puerto Rico and its government became bankrupt, no one needs to look further than our political leaders and their imprudent actions, such as the famous $38 million test order or the enactment of legislation to give bonuses to government employees.
Puerto Rico’s political leaders have lost a valuable opportunity during this crisis: to put Puerto Rico First. Before any of their political interests, they chose not to do so and continued walking in circles.
Francisco Rodríguez-Castro, president & CEO of Birling Capital, has more than 25 years of experience working with government, and multinational and public companies