Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

September 2014: Households Still Struggling to Recover

A comparative analysis of US and PR households

The “elephant in the room” is debt. The PR economy has a hard time escaping a 0.0% to negative real growth level. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues on sluggish 2.0% growth. Shortly put, the PR theme since 2000 has been: “low interest rates help service the public and private debt burden. Pretend to have a credible plan, but never address the structural problem and simply buy more time.” Are households in PR at the end of the line? Time has caught up. Sustained high unemployment, migration flight, and a tax system built on punishing production and rewarding consumption is not sustainable. Households and government are speeding towards the inflection point at which point debt becomes harder to service because pretend-and-extend policy making has created a depression in investment and growth. PR’s public debt is now at 103% of GNP vs 61% ten years ago. Many households in PR are at the point where cash generated by assets is insufficient to service the debt taken on to acquire the asset, particularly regarding mortgages.