Puerto Rico Compass ©

Q4 2009: US Recovers, But What About Puerto Rico?

An analysis of 2009 Q4 economic indices in PR

A lackluster 2009 is over. Global growth fell from 3.0% in 2008 to –1.1% in 2009 –the first outright decline of world GDP since the IMF began collecting the data in 1970. The recession in the US appears to have ended by Q4 of 2009. The key issue now is the shape of the impending recovery. There is an alphabet of possibilities. The pessimists fear a “W,” or perhaps an “L,” where the economy simply bounces along the bottom for a while. The optimists say the US economy typically bounces back robustly with a “V-shape.” The consensus seems to expect a solid, but less spectacular “U-shaped” recovery. In contrast, there is no recovery yet in Puerto Rico. The forecast is a more feeble “U-shaped” recovery. Structural issues in our economy, an unclear growth strategy, and ongoing banking problems are part of the problem. On the bright side, unemployment and car sales portrayed some improvement at the end of the quarter. Find out how other indicators performed in Q4 of 2009.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

December 2009: PPPs are the Government’s New Strategy

A look at this initiative to end the recession in PR

Governor Fortuño has selected the Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to redirect PR’s economic development strategy and steer the island out of its current 3-year old recession. PPPs are forecast to create 99,735 new jobs and attract $6.2 billion investments thru 2013. Will this strategy work? Mega projects such as the Caribbean Riviera in the old Roosevelt Roads navy facility and the Science City in the old penitentiary rely on private partners for financing. Betting on PPPs, implies big gains or catastrophic losses for Puerto Rico. This issue of PR Pulse analyzes the PPP concept. It aims to answer how these partnerships have worked in other countries; successes and failures; economic sectors and countries that have used them successfully or why they have failed. Find out the challenges facing PPPs in PR and what can be done to leave behind the current recession.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

November 2009: The Female Face of Labor

Participation of women in the labor market in Puerto Rico

Of the 1.673 million women age 16 years and over in CY 2008 in PR, 610,000, or 36.5%, were labor force participants—working or looking for work. They are projected to account for 44% of the labor force by 2020. Of 177,000 self-employed in 2008, 43,000 or 24% were women. The unemployment rate for women was 4.4% compared to 7% for men. This is no small accomplishment since their labor force participation rate in 1970 was a meager 29%. Over the same period, the rate for men fell gradually from 71% in 1970 to 55% in 2008. Find out which economic sector provided more jobs to these women; which occupation has the largest percentage of female employed in PR; whether education played a role in this increasing participation; and if they are earning as much as their male counterparts. In addition, this article discusses the impact of the current fiscal policy on female labor participants.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

October 2009: Connecting the Dots in Puerto Rico – Part II

The internal and external sides of the current economic crisis

Puerto Rico has not gone unscathed from the worldwide financial havoc in 2009 and which we discussed in our September issue of Economic Pulse. The big quake has placed more strain on an already jolted local economy.  Internal as well as external factors have blended to pound the PR economy and sink it in its worst crisis since the 70’s.  Getting a recipe to put the economy back on its feet is not a simple task.  However, to find a way out we have to identify first the external forces that affect the economy as well as those setbacks originated within the island. This is a must if the island is to adopt an effective strategy. In this issue, we analyze the roots of the forces that afflict the island economy and present some ideas for the cure.

Puerto Rico Compass ©

Q3 2009: Time Is Running Out for Recovery

Economic indices in Q3 in PR confirm a trend

Stimulus programs provide some relief to deal with the sharp downturn in PR. The federal program CARS (Car Allowance Rebate Program) or cash for clunkers, boosted auto sales in the island but only during August. However, this growth is not sustainable in coming months. Our quarterly indices continue to be negative. The positive effects of ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and LSP (Local Stimulus Plan) are as yet unobserved. Only 18% of the federal stimulus and 5% of the local stimulus have been disbursed. Fixing the $3.2b government deficit has required bitter medicine, including payroll savings, reduction in operational expenses and contracts, as well as government health plan savings, among others. This led to $1.2 million in savings as of October. Come November 6 of this year, 21,807 public employees will lose their jobs. Time is running out for government and the private sector to start the recovery.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

September 2009: Connecting the Dots – Part I

A view in retrospect of the financial and economic crisis

Five years ago, nobody could predict that in 2009 the most important concerns would be the loss of jobs and increased foreclosures. Nowadays, the financial crisis that started in the US has spread around the world. Unemployment in the US reached 9.7% in August 2009. Sale of houses in the US fell 25% per year since 2005. The Dow Jones Industrial average dropped to 6,547 points, similar to 1997 levels. Many financial and non-financial companies have filed for bankruptcy and almost all states in the US have large deficits. What are the roots of this debacle? Is it a real estate bust gone terribly wrong? Is it financial exuberance with a large dose of greed and creativity? How did it spread so quickly? This and other issues are addressed in this month’s issue of PR Pulse.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

August 2009: The Big Healthcare Meltdown

The US Health Reform and its implications for PR

In 2008, around 47 million Americans or 15% of the US population were uninsured. In PR, the uninsured were 553,000 or 14% of the population. Today, improving coverage and quality in the health system while reducing medical expenses are key concerns in President Obama’s health care plan. But philosophical and empirical problems combined with political and private power pressures could elude the promise of a universal health system. These days, the discussion in Washington seems to be how many trillions will health care and the recession require for a quick fix. This proposed health reform will unquestionably affect PR as well. Around $13 billion was spent on health care in the island in 2008 while 11% of the public budget was allocated to finance health. The burning question is how will this plan affect the Puerto Rican public health care option?

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

July 2009: Should Puerto Rico Fear Cuba?

On the opportunities a future Cuba entails for PR

After five decades of totalitarianism, Cuba is closer to an economic transition. The ultra-centralized economic model is crumbling and Cubans, as well as the rest of the world, are claiming for changes. The new US administration has bet on a more flexible and open policy to make Cuba embrace back the market economy.  Puerto Rico will not remain indifferent to such a milestone.  Many cultural, historical, and even family bonds tie these two islands. The eventual economic openness of Cuba has raised many concerns in Puerto Rico. Many believe Cuba is a big threat to Puerto Rico, in particular its tourist market. It is time to bring down this myth. This issue addresses a new world of opportunities for PR.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

June 2009: Let’s Not Forget Retirement!

What the current economic crisis entails for PR retirees

The current global financial and economic crises have generated major losses in banks; plunged stocks; blown up bankruptcies filings; escalated unemployment and beaten consumers’ pockets. But, there is another collateral damage that had not been completely realized. The collapse of stocks wiped out wealth and with it most retirement savings. As a result, one thing is sure for baby boomers on the verge of retirement: forget retirement! No doubt, many aging baby boomers will have to continue working past their traditional retirement age in order to enjoy the standard of living they dreamed. This is a dismal scenario but there are some positive outcomes too. This issue discusses how demographic pressures and the current economic crisis will affect our retirement plans.

Puerto Rico Compass ©

Q2 2009: Is the Worst over for Puerto Rico’s economy?

The good and bad news of the economic indices

During the first six months of this year, the PR economy posted negative numbers. How long will this last? Will recovery start soon? Governor Fortuño’s economic proposals combined with President Obama’s American Recovery Plan are expected to finally spur growth in the island but it will take time. Construction is still in recession but hopefully not for long. Manufacturing is also stalling and losing jobs. Banking is positive but close to zero growth. Overall, the consumer and the economy have posted negative results. The leading index does not augur a quick turnaround. The problem for the local government will not be a lack of money to increase investment and boost the economy. Instead, the challenge is how efficient, effective, and fast will it do it.