Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

May 2017: Entrepreneurship as a Way out for PR

The Legacy of Dr. William Baumol to US

This Pulse is a tribute to a great economist and a great man, as well as a friend, who recently passed away. For many years, Dr. William Baumol and his wife enjoyed spending time at their Luquillo beach apartment from December thru March. Most of all, I remember his common-sense explanations and the clarity with which he could explain a complex theory and write in impeccable style for all of us followers to learn. His insights, particularly those on innovative entrepreneurship, are at the heart of the solution to PR’s ongoing economic woes. William was also a man of action, being instrumental in obtaining a Mellon grant to fund “The Economics of Status in Puerto Rico” together with a group of local economists. To this day, this research is one of the best empirical and comprehensive works on the subject. Filling his void will be difficult and, yes, I will miss the conversations and enthusiasm that he never hesitated to share. Let this Pulse stand as testimony of one of his many great ideas, one that could definitely help shape a way out for PR. Hasta siempre.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

Apr 2017: An Open Letter to a Nobel Prize

On Joseph Stiglitz’s reading of the Puerto Rico Economy

Puerto Rico recently welcomed Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize in economics in 2001 and a renowned expert on the US and world economies. During a conference in Puerto Rico on April 6 of this year, Stiglitz addressed and lectured a large audience on the long-lasting fiscal and economic crisis of the Island. His presentation included the most recent episodes of worldwide fiscal crisis and debt restructuring. He also underscored the urgent need to get Puerto Rico back on the path of economic growth, something with which we all agree. However, as useful as this analysis might appear, Stiglitz failed to gauge whether his general recommendations were applicable in the very particular and complex economic context of Puerto Rico. This issue of Pulse analyzes some of Stiglitz’s conclusions and provides alternative explanations.

Economic Forecast

Mar 2017: Sink or Swim Puerto Rico

Analysis of PR’s performance in 2016 & forecast for 2017 – 2019
Today, after 11 years of economic recession, external and internal events pose further challenges to the Puerto Rico economy. China’s deceleration, the exit of UK from the European Community, Trumps’ election in the US, and terrorist attacks in 2016 do not augur strong external demand for PR’s exports in coming years. The establishment of the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB), a euphemism for a control board, in PR was the most important event in 2016, together with the election of Governor Rossello. In a time of uncertainty, peering 3 years into the future may seem a daunting task. It is, but, ignoring trends—demographic, economic, corporate—is not an option. Understanding the immediate future in PR is vital in ensuring that business and hopefully, government strategies are sustainable, that opportunities are identified, and that challenges are addressed to exit stagnation. This Pulse explores recent economic events in 2016 and forecasts 2017 thru 2019.

Puerto Rico Compass ©

1Q-2017 Leading Us into a Disaster?

Analysis of Puerto Rico’s Q1-2017 Economic Indices

The PR Oversight Board started to put pressure on the PR government. It is in search of results related to savings, cuts, and efficiencies in the PR government. The Administration has both hands full dealing with budget, reports, and measures with deadlines imposed by the Board. Perhaps for this reason, it seems the PR government has not engaged in a proactive role to restore growth. Instead, it appears Governor Rosselló and all the heads of agencies and public corporations are reacting to the Board’s increasing requirements. Whatever the magnitude of the measures, i.e. $120 mn or more than $500 mn cuts to the UPR budget, it is clear those are recessionary fiscal policies. The external sector, specially oil prices and interest rates, is changing rapidly, heading to a more challenging environment. This issue analyzes some risks in the future and why the Board and the PR government should take bold actions to spur growth instead of following an accountant approach to reach the Fiscal Plan targets.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

Feb 2017: Greek Lessons on the Impact of Austerity

What can happen when austerity is the only remedy in place
The Greek economic crisis, just like PR’s, was a long time in the making. What began as a credit crisis in 2008 became a social and economic chaos in two years, with austerity measures fueling a negative feedback loop that is still ongoing. The crisis was amplified by prior conditions on the ground, such as, widespread tax evasion, tampering of official statistics, and relentless political pressure from all sides. By 2014, the economic consequences of the process were becoming irreversible with widespread questioning of the need for austerity measures. Since then, many lessons have been drawn, most importantly, that the need for austerity must not override the need for future growth and development. Otherwise, the fiscal policy risks becoming self-defeating as fiscal accounts may never regain sustainability. Puerto Rico must do everything to avoid this trap.

Puerto Rico Compass ©

4Q-2016 Industry Leaders React to New Policies

4Q-2016 industry analysis and PR Administration policies
This edition of Puerto Rico Economic Compass, analyzes the 4Q-2016 economic indices and includes an industry analysis of the PR economy plus economic policies proposed by the new Administration. The elected governor, Ricardo Roselló and the PROMESA Fiscal Oversight Board have certainly altered expectations for 2017. New executive orders, approval of sweeping labor legislation, and continued dialogue with the PROMESA Board regarding key recommendations to be implemented in the near term, have raised both praise and criticism by several industry sectors. For instance, the recently approved Labor Reform Act has been praised and promoted by several industry and retail employers but has met a backlash from many in the labor movement. No doubt, the new government has been very busy trying to adopt and implement the fiscal and economic plan demanded by the PROMESA board since last December. What’s the rest of the story?
Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

Jan 2017: A Needle Hard to Thread

The challenges of health and PROMESA for Puerto Rico
A new year has arrived and brought with it a series of complex issues that require immediate attention. The US Congress mandated fiscal supervisory Board under PROMESA is dealing with PR’s fiscal and economic crisis. Health is one of the priorities as well as payment of PR’s public debt. With the upcoming repeal of Obamacare in the US, Puerto Rico faces a shortfall of almost $1 billion in federal funds for the public healthcare system, putting thousands of Puerto Ricans at risk. The Board is just starting to demand quick action from the new government by establishing a dialogue and trying to expedite under a tight timeline the process of certifying a sustainable fiscal plan that would restore fiscal discipline, provide access to financial markets, pay the public debt, and bring economic growth to PR over the next decade. But, will it succeed? Amidst all these priorities is Puerto Rico’s healthcare plan for the medically indigent. Find out what has happened since started on September 1993 and what lies ahead in the immediate future for PR.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

Dec 2016: A Bag of Shocking Economic News

Puerto Rico changed its course in 2016
Change hit Puerto Rico abruptly and hard as its fiscal crisis unfolded and rolled out public debt default with limited or no access to traditional financial markets. Badly needed investment in infrastructure stalled and the economic recession is now in its 11th year. This time the US told the Island there would be no bailout. Instead, Congress approved PROMESA with an oversight fiscal board that has almost omnipotent powers even over elected local politicians. It is not hard to find many in favor of the Board who hope it can trigger badly needed structural reforms in taxes, health, education, labor, pension systems, and government, among others. But, this hard medicine that produced upheaval in the past can also lead to rebellious mood in the year ahead. The dramatic election of Donald Trump promises a rollback of Obamacare and an inward-looking America. This Pulse reviews the forces of change in PR in 2016 that will shape its economic future.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

Nov 2016: Reality Check for Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Plan

Success will depend on the premises it makes
The government’s latest version of its fiscal and economic growth plan has come under close scrutiny since being submitted to the Financial Oversight & Management Control Board (FOMCB) for PR.  Some critics have pointed to its lack of policy specifics while others have scorned the fact that it does not contain a debt sustainability analysis while resting on additional federal funding. The PR fiscal plan (FP) has various technical points and assumptions that have also been singled out. The plan’s viability, regardless of the gaps, will ultimately depend on the validity of its assumptions. Policy makers must find a way to boost PR’s long-term potential output first but the appointed board may want to restructure public debt obligation first. Growing the economy will ensure that the future roadmap rests on credible future income flows. This edition of the Pulse takes a look at the fundamental assumptions behind the fiscal plan.

Puerto Rico Compass ©

Q3 2016 – Is Election 2016 Different for Puerto Rico?

Does the upcoming race change anything?
With elections just around the corner, do Puerto Ricans think the next Governor will have a profound impact on the economy? This issue of Compass analyzes the performance of HCCG’s six quarterly indices during the past non-election years compared with historical election years from 2000 thru 2012 and this year’s results. Find out if the consumer index tracks Puerto Ricans’ sense of financial security in their spending patterns. However, banking, construction, and manufacturing as well as the coincident index suggest the results of this election could prolong the lengthy economic recession of the past 11 years. Any election year brings uncertainty and many business owners could be hesitant to make long-term decisions. To complicate matters, the recently US Congress mandated Fiscal Control Board has absolute powers over the administration of the Island until fiscal discipline is restored, public debt is serviced, and there is access to financial markets. What is certain is that all of this will take years in the making.