Updated 06:35 PM EDT, Mon, May 17, 2021

Puerto Rico Economy: Creditors Seek Support for Territory's Debt

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Puerto Rico's creditors are now showing support for the government's proposal to do a complete overhaul on the territory's overwhelming debts. The San Juan government has a staggering $72 billion in debt. Added to this, the territory is left in a stagnant local economy.

Puerto Rico officials have tried to remedy the territory's debt problem by focusing on getting various creditors to engage in deals that would advert default, The New York Times reported. On Friday, the government's chief adviser, Jim Millstein, had proposed to exchange Puerto Rico's bonds for new debt that would be less overwhelming.

A $354 million payment is due on Dec. 1 -- few days from now.

Reportedly, the proposed solution was met with favor by most holders, but other creditors must still be won over. It was noted that general obligation bonds carry a guarantee in the island's constitution, which states that the debt must be paid.

With that guarantee, general obligation holders are expected to disagree on a restructuring scheme of payment.

To illustrate the point, the bond exchange proposal would involve piling up most of Puerto Rico's current debt and restructuring them into the form of a new "superbond." General obligation holders would have the first claim on government revenues.

For months, the Caribbean island has failed to convince Congress to pass legislation that would grant Puerto Rico's corporations, such as its sewer and water authorities, access to Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Some Puerto Rican officials said that calling the Chapter 9 bankruptcy would not completely address Puerto Rico's debt crisis.

Before Friday's meeting, it was reported that many hedge fund managers had complained that Puerto Rico officials have been proposing a possible default, but were not doing enough to cut back on government spending.

However, Bloomberg reports that many of these investors are choosing to play it safe, by holding on to their existing investments to see if Puerto Rico's Government Development Bank will pay the debt due on Dec. 1. From this amount, $267 million is guaranteed by the commonwealth. Reportedly, Puerto Rico's economy has failed to grow since 2006.

Financial advisers have pushed for Gov. Alejandro García Padilla to go on default to in order force the creditors to come into negotiations. Financial analysts have argued that a default will prompt Congress to act faster, to give the Caribbean access to Chapter 9, which is something that many creditors want to avoid.

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