Corporación para las Microfinanzas Puerto Rico (Microfinanzas PR) was created in 2008, the result of a cooperative agreement between the BBVA Microfinance Foundation and the Puerto Rican Economic Development Bank (BDE), and started operating in 2010. Microfinanzas PR is the country’s first microfinance institution, set up to provide funding for people with low incomes in Puerto Rican society to develop their productive activities and promote self-employment.
In 2013 it became the first social enterprise in Puerto Rico to be registered as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). This accreditation and recognition guarantees that, as a CDFI, it is a company that complies with the parameters and requirements established by the United States Treasury Department for originating loans and credit to low-income communities on the island, contributing to improving the economic reality of micro-entrepreneurs in these communities.
Microfinanzas PR provides help to sectors that are especially precarious and without access to banking services, such as women who are the main breadwinners, people who have been to jail and have come back into society, the unemployed and farmers. The institution has 20 employees.
Microfinanzas PR currently looks after over 1,100 clients, who generate over 1,400 jobs in their businesses, as well as their own, thus constituting a significant growth driver in Puerto Rico, where there is a high level of unemployment and a low rate of participation in the labor force.
Finance and Operations Control Manager
Nirlia L. De Jesús
HR and Administrative Manager
José Joaquín Villamil
Annette Montoto, President of Microfinanzas Puerto Rico, was awarded the “Top Management Award” in the Banking & Finance category in January 2016. The Top Management Award is one of the highest distinctions conferred in Puerto Rico on senior managers from different disciplines who have made significant professional or ethical contributions, for the prestige this lends both to their profession and the industry in which they work. The award is given by the Sales and Marketing Association.
Puerto Rico’s economy has been suffering a lengthy recession for the last ten years; in 2015 the economy is estimated to have shrunk by more than 1%, in a year scarred by partial defaults on debt, which stands at USD 72 billion, 70% of GDP, in a territory which lacks the legal protection enjoyed by US states that would enable a debt restructuring. In August it defaulted on USD 58 million and is now in a dead end, moving funds from one creditor to pay the next, a problem which will be exacerbated at year end and in the first quarter of 2016.
This situation has generated a sharp fall in investors’ and consumers’ expectations which are reflected in the fact that the island is not reacting favorably to macroeconomic variables such as the drop in interest rates and oil prices, as it would have done in the past. The response has been a sharp contraction in private and public investment.
The issues facing the island are apparent in the non-arrival of new investments and the lack of expansion of existing ones. The challenging fiscal scenario means that public investment, a growth factor in the past, is completely paralyzed at all levels of government: state, municipal, federal and local corporations.
In earlier decades, Puerto Rico was helped by a fiscal system which enabled companies to repatriate all their profits to the US at a zero tax rate. This allowed the island to become the producer of 50% of the medications consumed in the US, doubling the weight of the industrial sector in its economy. But, by virtue of an agreement between San Juan and Washington, that system began to be phased out in 1997 and disappeared completely in 2006, the very year in which the long recession period began.
The positive effects looked for by laws 20 and 22, focused on the arrival of new investors and service firms to the island in the tourism sector have yet to be seen, ditto strategic projects to replace the drop in the industrial sector.
Emerging sectors such as aerospace, clusters, farming and biotechnology have not expanded enough, or provided the momentum for public and private investment, to substitute the sectors which have been lost. The economy in general has moved out of step with that of the US.
After nearly a decade between recession and low growth, the population has diminished noticeably. 11 years ago the population of Puerto Rico was 3,826,878; in 2015 the latest census available put the population at 3,474,182 people, a 10% fall over the period.
The exodus of Puerto Ricans has accelerated in the last few years and the trend suggests that it will continue. Between 2010 and 2014, the average annual number of Puerto Rican migrants was 53,000, accompanied by a net exit of foreigners.
The migrations have mainly been by young people, contributing to the aging of the population and a higher proportion of people depending on government subsidies. Federal subsidies currently represent about 17% of GDP.
This change in the population has in turn meant that less taxable income is being generated because of the fall in the number of taxpayers which, taken with the lowered economic activity and the fall in employment have produced a real gap between the government’s revenue and expenditure in 2015 of USD 8.5 billion, i.e. about 8% of GDP.
Meanwhile, debt servicing absorbs 16% of the consolidated budget, nearly double that assigned to education and healthcare, revealing a trend of fiscal non-sustainability and the unlikelihood of being able to conduct an expansive fiscal policy to underpin economic activity.
Puerto Rico also suffers from 14% unemployment and has an active population of only 40.1 %. Puerto Rico’s total employment fell by 1.5% last year, while the rate of participation in the labor force shrank by 0.3 points.
20% of all employment is self-employed, with the informal economy making up 25% of GDP, suggesting that a significant proportion of the population works in this sector. All these factors indicate that major difficulties await Puerto Rico in the next few years and with them, increasing vulnerability on the part of its population.