Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

Sep/Oct 2017: Puerto Rico – Submerged and in Darkness

Highlights of Economic Impact of Hurricane Maria

More than a month has passed since hurricane Maria ravaged the island of PR. The recovery efforts have been slow and insufficient. As of today, 25% of households have no water service; 75% remain in darkness without electricity; 35% of Puerto Ricans do not have telecommunications services. Sensing this lack of progress, many Puerto Ricans have opted to leave the island in search of greener pastures in the mainland. Florida alone has received upwards of 67,000 “refugees” since the storm hit the island on September 20th. The situation is dire to say the least. With a destroyed infrastructure, lack of water and power, and an accelerated pace of emigration, businesses and government desperately need to perform a comprehensive assessment of economic damages, identify risks and opportunities, measure, manage, and minimize risks now and in next few years. This Pulse is a teaser of a comprehensive study HCCG is preparing regarding the impact of hurricane Maria and how it forges Puerto Rico’s economic future.

How Hurricane María forges PR's Economic Future
Click on the image to order the Full How Hurricane María forges Puerto Rico’s Economic Future Economic Impact Study
Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

Jul 2017: They Still Don’t Get It

An Analysis of PR’s Fiscal Plan & Budget
On June 30, 2016, President Obama signed into law the federal Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). Section 1010 of PROMESA created the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) for Puerto Rico, a seven-member board appointed by the US President for terms of 3 years. The Board has omnipotent powers and neither the Governor nor the Legislature in PR may control the Board. Their charter is to enact fiscal plans and budgets so the Island can return to the financial markets. The question is how will this be achieved. A balanced fiscal budget alone will not rescue the PR economy from its long-term economic recession nor will it stop the outward migration of its residents. Bondholders of PR’s public debt want to be paid but without a growing and vibrant economy, there will not be enough revenues to service this debt and continue providing “essential” government services. This issue addresses the key question of economic policy to restore growth, something which appears “Many, Still Don’t Get It!”

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

Jun 2017: So, what’s the Plan for Puerto Rico?

Assessment of Fiscal Plan’s questionable elements
Tensions seem to be flaring between the Fiscal Oversight Supervisory Board (Board), designated per PROMESA law, and the Government of PR as the reality of a steep decline in nominal GNP growth in the Island begins to materialize through the new budget’s fiscal discipline measures. The Fiscal Plan, submitted by the Governor of PR and approved by the Board, charts the route ahead. As more details became available, different groups have become more vocal in criticizing the approved Fiscal Plan (FP). Underlying these concerns are several questions, such as: Will the Fiscal Plan spur investment and economic growth? Are the measures included in the FP enough to restore fiscal discipline and return to a growth path? Are the FP’s assumptions correct? Does the FP adequately asses economic impact? This issue attempts to answer some of these questions from the standpoint of bondholders, renowned economists, government officials, and HCCG.

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 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 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.