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 Economic Pulse ©

Oct 2016 – One More Time: Puerto Rico’s Agenda

Election 2016 – Analysis of Economic Platforms
On November 8th, 2016, Puerto Ricans will face a stark choice between six governor candidacies, consisting of 4 political parties and 2 independent candidates. According to recent polls, independent candidates are attracting 22% of voters. Still, Ricardo Rossello from the NPP and David Bernier from the PDP are leading the polls to be the next Governor of PR. However, with the recent approval of a US Congress mandated Fiscal Control Board for PR, most people consider the elected governor and the legislature will have limited powers and areas of influence. Under these circumstances, the next four years will be tough for the new government and the people of PR. Economic issues include recession, outmigration, debt payments, retirement and health time bombs, and a harsh relation with the Fiscal Control Board. Voters in PR will have to analyze carefully the various platforms of these candidates and determine if some of these measures are economically unfeasible, not fiscally prudent, unclear; or depict lack of organization and cohesion, among other flaws. Can you judge who might be the better candidate for PR?

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

Sep 2016: Urgency of Now for Credit Cooperatives

An important component of Puerto Rico’s Financial Sector

Believers of the credit-union movement talk of a “social mission”: to serve communities. As of March 2016, credit unions in the Island had 976,550 members with $8.7 billion in total assets. Earnings are returned to members in the form of better interest rates and dividends. Traditionally, credit unions have offered higher rates than banks to savers and lower rates to borrowers. During this financial and current economic crisis in PR, most credit unions have been more resilient than banks. They have been able to compete with banks and small loan companies who complain loudly about credit unions’ exemption from local income tax. Though credit unions may pay no taxes, neither have they needed taxpayers’ money for bailouts, until now. Many credit unions, which purchased PR bonds (currently rated as junk) are facing tough challenges with their capital requirements. Its regulator COSSEC has been considering a “bailout” type of proposal for these credit unions. Will it be enough without endangering their regulartor COSSEC? Find out in this Pulse.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

Aug 2016: Aging & Migration Watch

How the PR economy could perform with these trends
As PROMESA with its Fiscal Control Board prepares to fix the island’s fiscal and hopefully economic problems, it is wise to assess the effects of aging and migration on the PR economy. Several years ago, PR Pulse addressed the issue of migration and a few months ago, we analyzed the impact of aging and lower population in Puerto Rico. Today, we combine both trends to assess the magnitude of their potential effects on the labor market and the island economy. Europe as well as many US states are experiencing substantial growth in the size of their older population. PR has joined the aging movement. Population aging and current migration have detrimental effects on our economic growth. Much of the older population growth was predetermined by lower fertility rates but now migration plays a key role in this population shift. Find out how these trends strike a further blow to economic growth in PR.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

July 2016: Can PR’s Budget Adjust to the New Norm?

10 years after the government shutdown

Fiscal budgets everywhere seek to balance the basic needs of the population with the resources available to the government. In PR’s case, the fiscal challenges are even starker as meeting its current debt obligations—without any viable economic alternative to back it up—will continue to drive up migration, thus further contracting economic activity and the current tax base. In this sense, the Commonwealth is facing a dire chicken and egg problem.  Stopping the population drainage will require positive economic prospects, yet to materialize. Not meeting its debt obligations will feed more uncertainty to the business community and certainly continue to deny the island access to capital markets, necessary to promote economic growth and development. All this makes it difficult to further reduce outward migration. Meanwhile, the government will need to continue to adjust its spending pattern to the prevailing socio-demographic profile of the resident population, a task easier said than done.

Puerto Rico Compass ©

Q2 2016: It is Still a Long Bumpy Ride

Analysis of Puerto Rico’s 2nd Q 2016 economic indices

The goal of Compass is to provide insights on drivers of PR’s overall economy and key economic sectors with the latest financial and economic data on a quarterly basis. The 2nd Quarter of 2016 depicts an economy still in the doldrums with a negative short-term outlook. Banking, Manufacturing, and construction seem stuck in negative territory. Manufacturing keeps losing jobs, which are often middle paying, largely because of technology and worldwide weakness in China. This year’s presidential race in the US and the gubernatorial race in PR raise more issues than solutions. Start with minimum wages. US candidate Hilary Clinton supports raising the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour, up from today’s $7.25 and candidate Trump recently endorsed a rise to $10 an hour. A higher minimum wage would help some workers in the low-paying food services and accommodation industries, so long as the higher minimum did not destroy their jobs by making it unprofitable to employ them. On the local front, the expected US fiscal control board has done little to halt the island’s mood of uncertainty.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

June 2016: Brexit and the Emergence of Discontent

Implications of newly found political and economic aversion

The results of the recent referendum on whether the UK wished to withdraw from the European Union (EU)—Brexit—sent world public opinion on a tail spin as the Leave option unexpectedly won by a margin of 52% to 48%. The following morning, David Cameron’s—the UK’s prime minister and the number one advocate to Remain in the EU—resigned and this further fueled speculations regarding the future of one of the world’s most influential nations. Since then, not only is everyone trying to make sense of the, until very recently, unthinkable but has also taken situational analysis to the next level.  That long forgotten “what-if” scenario is now a palpable reality. Going forward, several developments must take place for Brexit to materialize as a permanent fixture of the UK’s relationship with the EU—and the rest of the world. None of them are straight forward but in the end, there will be lessons for everyone, including us in Puerto Rico.