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.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

May 2015: Sharing the Pain with Debtors

Analysis of recommended PR fiscal budget in FY 2017

With total public debt of around 101% of GNP in FY2016, an extremely high figure for Puerto Rico, the question is not whether the government should cut its budget deficit but by how much and how to cut wisely. To bond markets’ consternation, Governor Alejandro García Padilla announced to the world last year the island could not pay its public debt and would likely default on its debt service payments. Fiscal policy must be driven by reason, responsible policymaking, and cost-benefit-based analysis of government’s spending priorities. After 10 years, PR’s economic growth is still negative; private and public investment is at its nadir; retired public workers expect full pensions and reliable health coverage; and US Congress threatens to impose a unilateral Fiscal Control Board to regain fiscal discipline and ensure public debt is paid. Will the recommended budget protect Puerto Ricans from various risks: unemployment, destitution, illness, and lack of education? What will it take to recover a growth path in the island?

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

April 2016: PR Stretched to the Limit

Review of Global, US & PR economies in FY 2015 plus forecasts from 2016 to 2018

The past few weeks have seen an unprecedented spike in uncertainty over the Island’s long-term prospects. The combination of a pending default on public debt, political wrangling both in Washington and San Juan, and continuous negative news about the economy has opened the door to short-term politics and the prospects of a full-blown crisis. Ultimately, the economy will adjust to the existing reality on the ground however unpleasant this may be with the real test only just beginning. The policy and institutional framework will have to be rebuilt pretty much from scratch as constrained budgets, lower economic activity, lower population, and impoverished consumers are here to stay, at least for a while. Striking the right balance will require a significant amount of creativity and courage but the alternative is definitely more daunting. Coming to grips with the hard facts that public debt is a debt we all must pay is only the beginning. What will it take to chart a path to solvency and growth in PR?

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

March 2016: A Clear and Present Danger

Analysis of the proposed Federal Oversight Board for PR

Chairman Rob Bishop of the US House Committee on Natural Resources submitted a draft bill on March 29, 2016 to “establish an Oversight Board to assist the Government of PR, including its instrumentalities, in managing its public finances, and for other purposes.” The bill grants broad powers to a 5 member Board, charged with the task of proposing necessary reforms to solve PR’s fiscal crisis. It will audit the central government and its corporations; create efficiencies, and reforms with transparent fiscal plans and balanced budgets while improving services; and facilitate a court supervised debt restructuring if voluntary agreements are not achieved (but not under the umbrella of Chapter 9 since that would imply “a bailout of PR on the backs of US taxpayers”.) Why does PR need a fiscal board? Will the Board be subject to the claims of numerous bondholders all requesting priority in their debt payments? Or, will it be accompanied by a package of federal assistance to stabilize the Commonwealth’s liquidity problems and set out a roadmap for economic growth?

Q1 2016: Uphill All the Way in Puerto Rico

An analysis of 1st. Quarter 2016 economic indices

Puerto Rico is now in its tenth year of economic recession, which it started in 2006. The fiscal crisis, which has played center stage in the past administrations, has been defined by a failure to provide effective governance and leadership in response to serious economic challenges. The fiscal crisis has not gone away and the harsh tax increases have been compounded by a migration crisis. Q1 in 2016 was plagued with uncertainty, fueled by: government’s inability to pay its public debt, suppliers, reimbursements to taxpayers, fear of job losses at GDB, poor retail sales performance, and an unsympathetic US Congress intent on enforcing a Fiscal Control Board over Puerto Rico with unknown implications. Among all these uncertainties, only one thing is certain: the future will be uphill all the way and at significant political and economic cost. This issue examines the performance of our six quarterly indices, which depict an economy in trouble.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

February 2016: Can PR Remain a Going Concern?

Analysis of recent financial and economic events

On February 2nd, 2016, the PR Department of Treasury released a draft of the FY 2014 unaudited Commonwealth of PR Basic Financial Statements. Management’s Letter indicated “The risks and uncertainties facing the Commonwealth, together with other factors described in the basic financial statements, have led management to conclude that there is substantial doubt as to the ability of the Primary Government …to continue as a going concern..” Furthermore, “if the Commonwealth’s financial condition does not improve, … [it] will not be able to honor all of its obligations as they come due while at the same time providing essential government services.” This shocking statement discloses a long history of deficit financing during the past decade. Since the announcement that PR’s public debt was not payable, the island has had no access to the bond market and its liquidity problems have worsened. This issue presents an analysis of current fiscal problems and government’s proposal, which does not address the real causes of our fiscal problems.