Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

10/2018: The Making of the Next Crisis at COFINA

The making of the next crisisA weak economy may make the recent agreement unviable
Two recent events have rattled the prospects for a sustainable solution to PR´s debt restructuring process. First, the Fiscal Oversight Board (FOB) filed three key documents to legally enshrine the debt restructuring agreement with COFINA bond holders. A few days later, the same entity published a new version of its Fiscal Plan (the sixth in 2018). What emerged, however, was an indirect confirmation of the risks that await PR. On the one hand, the agreement establishes a haircut of 7% for senior debt and 44% for junior debt (where most local bond holders fall). The new Fiscal Plan, on the other hand, bluntly stated that the economy is expected to run out of growth by 2023—with negative or near-zero growth from then on. In other words, according to the FOB, the economy will be severely constrained to meet its obligations under the debt restructuring agreement in five years-time. What it did not say was that, as it stands, it sets the way to a new default.

Puerto Rico Compass ©

Q42017: A Shattered Economy After Hurricane Maria

Shattered EconomyAnalysis of 4th Quarter 2017 economic indices

At the end of 2017, PR exhibits a shattered economy with a broken infrastructure due the devastation of hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017. As of January 2018, more than 400,000 clients or 30% of PREPA’s clients still had no electricity. As analyzed in our previous Q3 issue, a fast recovery of electricity is a key factor in the island’s economic recovery. Other basic infrastructure, such as, water, communications, and roads continue to have problems. The lack of a fully operational and reliable infrastructure is hitting businesses as well as households. With lower demand and rising operational costs, many businesses have reached the point of no return and have closed or filed for bankruptcy. Families have chosen the option of mass migration, particularly to the USA. HCCG’s six quarterly economic indices highlight the effects of the broken infrastructure and a weak economy in the post Maria era.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

12/2017 The Perfect Storm in 2017

Irma, Maria, and the US Tax Reform
The Perfect StormOn Wednesday December 20th, 2017, the House of Representatives joined the Senate in passing the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This is a major overhaul of the US tax code that will substantially cut corporate tax rates on a permanent basis and tax cuts to households that will expire over the next decade. It will also increase the Federal deficit by $1.5 trillion and adversely hits Puerto Rico as “collateral damage”. PR will remember 2017 as the year of the perfect storm with category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria in September and the US tax reform. The latter threatens 50% of our GDP, 288,000 direct and indirect jobs, and 33% of the central government budget. The hurricanes destroyed PR’s electrical grid; uncovered the face of poverty; bankrupted many small and medium businesses; incentivized massive migration to the US, and further curtailed PR’s autonomy to govern itself as Congress mandated a Fiscal Supervisory Board. Will business and financiers gamble on PR?

 

Puerto Rico Compass ©

Q32017: PR’s Infrastructure: A House of Cards?

During 3Q 2017, two Category 5 hurricanes hit the Island causing unprecedented damages to the economy. Damages which could conservatively surpass $115 bn. The Island’s power grid was practically destroyed with massive damages, in roads, bridges, ports, airports, buildings, equipment, housing, and telecommunications, among others. All economic sectors depend on infrastructure to thrive; some sectors rely more than others but a good and consistent infrastructure is a must to be competitive in this global economy. Hurricanes Irma and Maria demonstrated that much of the PR alleged robust infrastructure was only a house of cards and when the winds blew out the electrical grid, all the house collapsed. This issue analyzes the repercussions of a broken infrastructure and how this impacts HCCG’s six quarterly economic indices in 3rd Q 2017.

Hurricane María over Puerto Rico
Source: NOAA
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.