Puerto Rico: Black Start 2019

Scroll down for english version.

El huracán María devastó el sistema de energía de Puerto Rico. Después de la tormenta, la isla esencialmente ha tenido que reactivar su sistema energético del equivalente de lo que en la industria se llama un “blackstart”, que es el término técnico que describe el proceso de reactivar el sistema de generación energética luego de un apagón total.

A la misma vez, el sector de energía en todo el mundo está cambiando rápidamente a medida que nuevas tecnologías que son incompatibles con el paradigma centenario de generación, transmisión y distribución de energía entran en funcionamiento. Debemos aprovechar esta coyuntura, la destrucción casi total del sistema de energía en Puerto Rico y los adelantos tecnológicos en este sector, para traer al siglo 21 el anquilosado sistema eléctrico de la isla. Dicho de otra manera, debemos utilizar el “blackstart”, no para reconstruir el sistema energético a su estado al 19 de septiembre de 2017, sino para dar un salto cualitativo de envergadura.

Para que el sector de energía lleve a cabo con éxito la transición a un nuevo modelo de hacer negocios será necesario desarrollar una nueva visión del sistema, enmendar leyes y reglamentos, actualizar las redes de transmisión y distribución y fomentar el uso eficiente de la energía por parte de los consumidores. Esta es una tarea difícil, pero afortunadamente abundan los recursos para orientar a los legisladores, reglamentadores y las compañías de energía en este proceso.

El primer paso …una nueva visión

El primer paso en este complicado camino es desarrollar una nueva visión para el sector energético de Puerto Rico. Desarrollar esta visión requiere pensar más allá de los confines de la isla, pero tomando en consideración y entendiendo a fondo las limitaciones y retos que enfrenta Puerto Rico. Además, se necesitará legislación de avanzada para implementar esa visión y establecer lineamientos claros para los reglamentadores con respecto a los objetivos ambientales, los estándares de energía renovable, la eficiencia energética y el manejo de la demanda por energía.

El modelo de reglamentación también tendrá que evolucionar de uno basado en planes de recursos integrados a largo plazo a uno basado en una supervisión más proactiva con respecto a la utilización eficiente de los recursos y más dinámica en relación a los distintos actores y participantes en el sector energético. Esto significa que los reglamentadores deberán implementar un modelo de reglamentación basado en el desempeño (“performance-based regulation”), establecer parámetros transparentes para la rendición de cuentas, así como incentivos (y sanciones) para lograr los objetivos de la política energética.

Nuevas estructuras tarifarias

Las nuevas estructuras tarifarias deben diseñarse para: (1) enviar las señales de precio correctas tanto a los generadores como a los consumidores; (2) promover la eficiencia energética; (3) manejar eficientemente la carga base y la demanda pico; (4) fomentar la transición a la interacción bi-direccional entre los operadores de la red y los clientes que instalen capacidad de generación distribuida; y (5) implementar tarifas basadas en el momento del uso de la energía para fomentar la eficiencia y la optimización del uso de los recursos. Además, se deberá promover la implementación de nuevas normas energéticas para el diseño de edificios, facilitar el financiamiento para la retro-adaptación de estructuras existentes para fomentar la conservación de energía y promover el uso de enseres electrodomésticos eficientes para estabilizar el consumo residencial.

La generación de energía

En términos de generación, las grandes instalaciones de generación con ciclos de recuperación de la inversión de más de 30 años son cada vez más una cosa del pasado. Mientras, la construcción de unidades de generación tradicional más pequeñas y altamente eficientes, ampliamente distribuidas en las áreas de servicio para suplir la carga base, se está convirtiendo rápidamente en una alternativa tecnológicamente factible y rentable. Complementar este modelo con soluciones de generación renovable y tecnologías de almacenamiento para proveer reservas, otros servicios auxiliares y carga adicional en las horas pico, no solo es eficiente, sino que puede ayudar a proporcionar un servicio con menos interrupciones y más costo-efectivo para todos los clientes.

La transmisión y distribución

Por el lado de la transmisión y distribución, la red deberá evolucionar para incorporar de manera eficiente y confiable la generación distribuida, el uso de baterías a nivel de la red, así como al detal, para permitir el almacenamiento de electricidad cuando no se requiera su uso inmediato y así promover y aumentar el valor de los recursos de generación intermitente. Además, el rápido crecimiento del mercado de automóviles eléctricos crea el potencial de demanda adicional, presumiblemente fuera de las horas pico, lo que ayudará a estabilizar la demanda por una carga base que se proyecta a la baja en los próximos años. Los automóviles eléctricos también funcionarían como una solución de almacenamiento y podrían descargar energía a la red cuando surjan usos más valiosos para esa carga. Ahora bien, todo esto implicaría hacer inversiones de capital en áreas no-tradicionales dado que los automóviles eléctricos necesitarían estaciones de carga ampliamente disponibles y accesibles a través de toda la isla.

Flexibilidad

Por último, dados los efectos previsibles del rápido e inminente cambio climático, la red del siglo 21 tiene que ser lo suficientemente flexible para incorporar micro y mini-redes que puedan conectarse y desconectarse de la red principal, según sea necesario, para asegurar que las instalaciones de infraestructura crítica (hospitales, bombas de agua, telecomunicaciones etc.) tengan un respaldo adecuado en caso de desastres para proteger a las comunidades aisladas de interrupciones prolongadas de esos servicios y limitar los impactos a la salud y al medio ambiente.

Estos temas los estaremos explorando durante la conferencia sobre El Futuro de la Energía, convocada por el Centro para una Nueva Economía para principios del 2019. Además, analizaremos el rol de las instituciones académicas en la transformación energética de Puerto Rico; la necesidad de atraer capital en condiciones competitivas; así como oportunidades de investigación y desarrollo y el impacto del rediseño del sector energético de Puerto Rico sobre el desarrollo económico de la isla.

El autor es el Director de Política Pública del Centro para una Nueva Economía

Esta columna fue publicada originalmente en El Nuevo Día el 17 de junio de 2018.

Pendientes a Puerto Rico: Black Start 2019, si aún no lo ha hecho puede registrarse aquí.

   
 

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s energy system. After the storm, the island essentially has had to re-activate its energy system from the equivalent of a system-wide “blackstart”, which is the technical term for restarting an energy system from a complete shutdown.

At the same time, the energy sector world-wide is rapidly changing as new technologies come online and challenge the existing 100-year old model of generating, transmitting, and distributing energy to various classes of customers with different needs. Puerto Rico should take advantage of this synchronicity—the almost total destruction of its energy system and the technological advances in this sector—to upgrade its ankylosed electric system to 21st century standards. In other words, we should use the current blackstart-like situation to make a quantitative jump, instead of just restoring its energy system to its pre-Maria status.

In order to successfully make the transition to a new business model for the energy sector, it will be necessary to develop a new energy vision, amend several laws and regulations, upgrade transmission and distribution systems and encourage the efficient use of energy by end customers. This is a tall order, but fortunately resources abound to guide policymakers, regulators and utilities in this process.

The first step ... a new vision

The first step in this complicated pathway is developing a new vision for the Puerto Rico energy sector. Charting this vision requires thinking beyond the confines of Puerto Rico, but with a clear understanding of the island’s limitations and challenges. In addition, new legislation will be needed to mandate the implementation of that vision and to set clear targets for regulators regarding environmental objectives, renewable portfolio standards, energy-efficiency goals, demand response and peak load management.

Regulation models will also have to evolve from long-term planning cycles to more proactive supervision regarding the efficient deployment of new resources and more dynamic oversight of the growing number of stakeholders in the energy sector. To accomplish these objectives, regulators will need to shift to performance-based regulation and set transparent accountability metrics, as well as incentives (and penalties) to achieve policy objectives.

New tariff structures

New tariff structures need to be designed to send the right price signals to both generators and customers, promote energy efficiency, manage baseload and peak demand, encourage the transition to bi-directional interaction between grid operators and customers deploying distributed energy resources and to establish block and time-of-use rates to encourage efficiency. In addition, new building design standards, access to finance energy-conservation retrofitting, and the adoption of consumption-reduction technology for households should also be widely encouraged.

Energy Generation

Large generation facilities with 30-plus-year investment recovery cycles are increasingly a thing of the past. On the other hand, building smaller, highly efficient traditional generation units, widely-distributed across the service areas to support baseload demand is quickly becoming both technologically feasible and cost-effective. This model, coupled with increased renewable generation/storage solutions to provide reserves, other ancillary services and additional load at peak times, is not only efficient, but can provide extremely reliable service, with lower outage rates, and lower costs for all customers.

Grid designs will also have to evolve to efficiently and reliably incorporate distributed generation, grid-scale and customer-owned battery storage units to allow the storage of electricity when not required for immediate use and thereby promote and enhance the value of environment-friendly intermittent generation resources. In addition, the rapidly growing market for electric cars creates the potential for additional demand, presumably at off-peak hours, therefore stabilizing baseload requirements that are forecast to decline in the coming years. Electric cars are also a storage solution that could discharge energy back to the grid when that charge has other more valuable uses. However, this would also entail making capital improvements outside the traditional utility paradigm, given that electric cars would need widely available and accessible charging stations throughout the island.

Flexibility

Finally, given the foreseeable effects of rapid and impending climate change, the grid of the 21st century has to allow for the incorporation of micro and mini-grids that can connect and disconnect from the main grid as needed to ensure critical infrastructure has adequate back-up in the event of natural or man-made disasters, to protect isolated communities from prolonged service outages, and to limit health and environmental impacts.

These are some of the themes we will be exploring during the “Future of Energy Conference”, convened by the Center for a New Economy for the first quarter of 2019. In addition, we will analyze the role of academic institutions in Puerto Rico’s energy transformation; the need to attract new capital at competitive terms; as well as research and development opportunities and the economic development impact of redesigning Puerto Rico’s energy sector.

The author is Policy Director for the Center for a New Economy

This column was originally published in El Nuevo Día on June 17th, 2018

Lookout for Puerto Rico: Black Start 2019, if you haven't register to receive information please do so  here.

 

Los Pasos para la Transformación Energética de Puerto Rico

Dangerous weather. Electricity pylons with power lines in stunning storm during colorful sunset.

Click here for English

El modelo de hacer negocios de las compañías de generación eléctrica, incluyendo la AEE, tradicionalmente conocido como “build and grow” y basado en (1) la construcción de plantas generatrices cada vez más grandes y eficientes, utilizando combustibles fósiles baratos y (2) en un aumento continuo en el consumo de electricidad, comenzó a fallar en la década de los años 70 debido a limitaciones en la eficiencia alcanzable en la generación de electricidad, el aumento en el precio de los combustibles fósiles, la nueva reglamentación ambiental, la reducción en la demanda de electricidad y la entrada de tecnologías nuevas de generación utilizando fuentes renovables.

Dicho de otra manera, el modelo de producir y vender electricidad cambió hace 45 años. Pero en Puerto Rico la AEE siguió haciendo las cosas como siempre las había hecho. Por tanto, no debe sorprendernos que es necesario transformar radicalmente la AEE.

Ahora bien, la reforma del sistema energético de Puerto Rico tiene que ser bien pensada, estratégica, y seguir una secuencia lógica, más aún cuando la AEE enfrenta simultáneamente los retos de la reconstrucción del sistema eléctrico después del Huracán María, la reestructuración de su deuda bajo el procedimiento del Titulo III de PROMESA, una baja sustancial en la demanda por sus servicios, y la posible privatización, total o parcial, del sistema eléctrico que ha sido administrado y operado como un monopolio por más de setenta años.

Dada esa situación, recomendamos que se implemente el siguiente proceso para transformar nuestro sistema energético:

Primero, la Comisión de Energía para Puerto Rico, trabajando en conjunto con la AEE, debe actualizar el Plan Integrado de Recursos del 2016 de manera que se tome en consideración los eventos meteorológicos del 2017 y se establezcan metas y objetivos con respecto a la capacidad de generación necesaria, la estructura tarifaria y de precios a cobrarse a los consumidores, los estándares para reconstruir la red transmisión y distribución, y la incorporación de energía renovable a la red, entre otros objetivos importantes.

Segundo, partiendo del Plan Integrado de Recursos, determinar la modalidad de privatización y la estructura de mercado óptima para lograr las metas y objetivos establecidos en ese Plan.

Tercero, la Comisión de Energía deberá establecer unos lineamientos (“guidelines”) para gobernar el proceso de transformación. Entre eestos se deben incluir las cualificaciones que se le exigirán a las compañías que deseen participar del proceso. Aquí es importante prestar atención a la reputación corporativa del licitador, su situación financiera, el desempeño que ha tenido en otras jurisdicciones, y sí ha tenido problemas legales por incumplimiento de contrato o señalamientos de corrupción en otros lugares, entre otros factores.

Cuarto, la Comisión de Energía deberá establecer claramente los criterios que se utilizarán para otorgar los contratos. Entre otros criterios, es importante enfocarse en la capacidad tecnológica de la firma, la experiencia del equipo gerencial, los costos estimados de producción y la solidez financiera para hacer las inversiones de capital requeridas. Sí los contratos son otorgados a compañías sin la experiencia y los recursos adecuados el resultado será el fracaso total del proceso de privatización.

Quinto, una vez se establezcan los parámetros técnicos, a través del Plan Integrado de Recursos; la estructura de mercado óptima para Puerto Rico; las cualificaciones que se le exigirán a las compañías que participen en el proceso; y los criterios para la otorgación de los contratos; entonces la Autoridad para las Alianzas Público Privadas de Puerto Rico procederá a negociar los contratos pertinentes para implementar la transformación del sistema eléctrico de Puerto Rico.

Sexto, la Comisión de Energía de Puerto Rico deberá emitir un certificado de cumplimiento como condición precedente al cierre de cualquier contrato o transacción. Este requisito es común en los Estados Unidos en los procesos de compra-venta de entidades altamente reglamentadas, por ejemplo, instituciones financieras, compañías de telecomunicaciones, o compañías de radio y televisión. El propósito de este requisito es que la Comisión de Energía certifique que la transacción negociada cumple con los criterios previamente establecidos.

Entonces se comenzaría con el proceso de implementación de la nueva estructura del mercado eléctrico en Puerto Rico. Desafortunadamente, del P. del S. 860 contiene varias cláusulas que limitan o diluyen la autoridad de la Comisión de Energía en el contexto de la transformación de la AEE.

Por ejemplo, la Sección 6(c) y las Secciones 8, 11, y 12 del proyecto de ley limitan o eliminan los poderes de la Comisión para (1) reglamentar las tarifas y cargos que podrá cobrar una entidad contratante; (2) exigir a la parte contratante el cumplimiento con cualquier proceso, requisito, aprobación, o revisión por parte de la Comisión de Energía de Puerto Rico; y (3) exigir el cumplimiento de cualquier entidad contratante con las disposiciones de cualquier Plan Integrado de Recursos. También se elimina la aplicabilidad de cualquier reglamento promulgado por la Comisión a las Transacciones de la AEE y se elimina el requisito de que cualquier contrato otorgado con respecto a alguna Transacción de la AEE sea evaluado o aprobado por la Comisión de Energía.

La implementación de esas limitaciones sería un grave error de política pública. Y en palabras del Inspector General Interino del Departamento de Seguridad Interna (“DHS”) en una vista pública reciente en el Congreso de Estados Unidos, constituye “una receta para el desastre”. Creo que lo último que deseamos en Puerto Rico después de tanto sufrimiento causado por la lentitud en re-energizar la isla, es provocar otro desastre en el sistema eléctrico causado por reglamentación inadecuada y el funcionamiento deficiente de nuestras instituciones políticas. Recordemos que la crisis energética en California en el año 2000-2001 fue causada por un marco regulatorio deficiente que fue aprovechado por Enron para aumentar las tarifas astronómicamente y resultó en apagones selectivos a través del estado debido a errores humanos, no a eventos de la naturaleza.

En resumen, la reglamentación adecuada del mercado es esencial para obtener los resultados deseados en términos de modernizar nuestro sistema eléctrico, incorporar la generación con fuentes renovables y reducir el costo por kilovatio-hora.

Por: Sergio M. Marxuach

El autor es director de Política Pública del Centro para una Nueva Economía. Esta columna fue publicada originalmente en El Nuevo Día el día 15 de abril de 2018.



perspective view of electricity power lines on blue sky background

Steps towards Energy Transformation in Puerto Rico

The business model for electrical generation companies, including PREPA, traditionally known as “build and grow,” is based on (1) the construction of ever larger and more efficient generating plants using cheap fossil fuels and (2) a constant increase in electrical consumption. This model began to fail, however, in the 1970s due to limitations on the efficiency achievable in the generation of electricity, the increase in the price of fossil fuels, new environmental regulation, a reduction in the demand for electrical power, and the entrance of new generation technologies using renewable energy sources.

To put it another way, the model for producing and selling electricity changed 45 years ago, but in Puerto Rico PREPA went on doing things the way it had always done them. So it should not surprise us that PREPA needs to be radically transformed.

But the reform of the energy system in Puerto Rico has to be well-thought-out, strategic, and it must follow a logical sequence, especially when PREPA is facing a number  of simultaneous challenges: the rebuilding of the electrical system after Hurricane Maria, the restructuring of its debt under the procedures of Title III of PROMESA, a substantial decline in the demand for its services, and the possible privatization, total or partial, of the electrical system that has been administered and operated as a monopoly for more than seventy years.

Given this situation, we recommend implementing the follow process for transforming our electrical system:

First, the Energy Regulatory Commission for Puerto Rico, working in conjunction with PREPA, should update the 2016 Integrated Resource Plan to take into consideration the meteorological events of 2017 and establish goals and objectives for the generation capacity needed, the structure of rates and prices to be charged consumers, the standards for rebuilding the transmission and distribution network and for incorporating renewable energy into that network, and other important objectives.

Second, on the basis of the Integrated Resource Plan, determine the modality to be employed for privatization and the optimal market structure for achieving the goals and objectives set forth in the Plan.

Third, the Energy Commission should establish guidelines to govern the transformation process. Among these guidelines should be the qualifications to be required of the companies who wish to take part in the process. Here, it is important to take into account the bidder’s corporate reputation, its financial situation, its performance in other jurisdictions, and whether it has had legal problems due to breach of contract or accusations of corruption in other locations, among other factors.

Fourth, the Regulatory Commission should establish clear criteria to be used in granting the contracts. Among other criteria, it is important to focus on the firm’s technological capacity, the managerial team’s experience, the estimated costs of production, and the financial solidity for making the necessary capital investments. If the contracts are let to companies without adequate experience and resources, the result will surely be a total failure of the privatization process.

Fifth, after establishing the appropriate technical parameters (via the Integrated Resource Plan), the optimal market structure for Puerto Rico, the qualifications to be required of the companies taking part in the process, and the criteria for granting the contracts, the Puerto Rico Authority for Public-Private Partnerships can proceed to negotiate the contracts necessary for implementing the transformation of Puerto Rico’s electrical system.

Sixth, the Puerto Rico Energy Commission should issue a certificate of compliance as a condition precedent to the signing of any contract or transaction. In the United States this requirement is common in sales of such highly regulated entities as financial institutions, telecommunications companies, and radio and television companies. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure, through a review by the Energy Commission, that the transaction negotiated complies with the previously established criteria.

At that point, implementation of the new electric-market structure in Puerto Rico can begin. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 860 contains several clauses that limit or dilute the Energy Regulatory Commission’s authority in the context of the transformation of PREPA.

For example, Section 6(c) and Sections 8, 11, and 12 of the bill limit the Commission’s power to (1) regulate the rates and charges that a contracting entity can impose; (2) demand that the contracting party comply with any process, requirement, approval, or review by the Energy Regulatory Commission of Puerto Rico, and (3) demand that any contracting entity comply with the provisions of any Integrated Resource Plan. Likewise, the bill now before the Senate eliminates the applicability of any regulation issued by the Commission affecting PREPA’s Transactions and also eliminates the requirement that any contract let with regard to any PREPA Transaction be evaluated, approved, or endorsed by the Energy Commission.

Implementation of these limitations would be a grave public policy error. Indeed, in the words of the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a recent congressional hearing, it would constitute “a recipe for disaster.” I think the last thing we want in Puerto Rico after so much suffering caused by the slowness in restoring the island’s electric service is to provoke another disaster in the electrical system because of inadequate regulation and the unsatisfactory functioning of our political institutions. We should remember the energy crisis in California in 2000-2001 caused by a weak regulatory framework that was taken advantage of by Enron in order to raise its rates astronomically. This crisis resulted in rolling blackouts across the state due to human error, not natural events.

In summary, adequate regulation of the market is essential if we are to obtain the desired results with respect to modernizing our electrical system, incorporating renewable sources of energy into our generation system, and reducing the cost per kilowatt-hour.

By: Sergio M. Marxuach

The author is the Policy Director at the Center for a New Economy. This column was originally published in El Nuevo Día on April  15th, 2018.

Ponencia ante la Comisión Especial de Asuntos de Energía del Senado de P.R. para Transformar el Sistema Eléctrico

Expediting the Recovery Process: A Proposal to Create a Puerto Rico Development Authority

Introduction Puerto Rico is at a critical junction in the disaster recovery process after Hurricane María. Relief efforts, while still ongoing in certain parts of the island, are slowly winding down and soon will give way to recovery activities and the rebuilding of the island. It is, therefore, “a time of desperate loss, yet also a time of distinct possibility.”1 The commencement of the recovery process is crucial to making the most of that “time of distinct possibility”, as research carried out after similar disasters has found that the time between the beginning of the relief efforts and the beginning of the recovery process is highly correlated with the length of the recovery, as well as with the severity and duration of public health and economic impacts of the disaster on the population as a whole.2 So, it is in the best interest of all stakeholders to move the recovery efforts forward as soon as possible. Click the button below to download the complete document: CNE-DownloadPublication-Button    

Puerto Rico’s Pension System: Knocking on Heaven’s Door

This post was originally published on January 27, 2011. Introduction

The Employees Retirement System of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (the “ERS”) is a trust created by Act 447 of May 15, 1951 to provide pension and other benefits to retired employees of the government of Puerto Rico and its instrumentalities. According to the Management’s Discussion and Analysis included in the ERS’s most recent financial statements, the system “since its inception lacked proper planning.”1 The problem was (and to a certain extent still is) that the level of both employer and employee contributions was relatively low and was not actuarially determined, while the level of benefits was statutorily defined and bore no relation to employee contributions or to the investment yield of the systems assets.

In 1973 the benefit structure was “enhanced” without enacting a corresponding increase in contribution levels. As government employment increased in the mid-to-late 1970s, partially in response to the general economic slowdown, the gap between the assets available to pay benefits and the actuarial obligation began to widen.

CNE-DownloadPublication-Button Or view the full report below:

Roundtable discussion on the future of Puerto Rico’s economy

Category: Article, Presentation, Publications · Tags:

Roundtable discussion on the future of Puerto Rico’s economy

USA Congress On July 18, 2017 CNE’s Policy Director Sergio Marxuach participated in a bipartisan roundtable discussion in the US Congress on the future of Puerto Rico’s economy at the invitation of Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Ranking Minority Member of the House Committee on Small Business. Below is a summary of CNE’s testimony as well as a link to the unabridged version of the document submitted by CNE. ACCESS HERE THE COMPLETE TESTIMONY Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this Roundtable to Discuss the Future of Puerto Rico’s Economy. My remarks will cover three topics. First, I will briefly discuss the impact of the enactment of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (“PROMESA”). Second, I will stress the need for policy initiatives at the Federal level to help Puerto Rico end its current downward economic spiral and jumpstart economic growth in the short-term. Finally, I will outline the work of the Growth Commission convened by the Center for the New Economy to develop a long-term economic growth strategy for Puerto Rico. 1. PROMESA The enactment of PROMESA in June 2016 opened a new chapter in U.S.-Puerto Rico relations. After decades of benign neglect, Congress recognized in 2016 that it has a moral obligation under the U.S. Constitution to foster the welfare of the U.S. citizens that live in Puerto Rico. This means that it is in Congress’s own interest to see through that Puerto Rico is successful in addressing its current fiscal and economic crisis. Unfortunately, some of the policy tools set forth in PROMESA are not working as expected and may hinder the island’s ability to escape its current economic death spiral. First, the imposition of a Fiscal Oversight Board over the duly elected government of Puerto Rico—with broad powers over the island’s fiscal and economic policies, authority to command the implementation of its recommendations, and the capacity to prevent the enforcement or execution of otherwise valid contracts, executive orders, laws or regulations—has seriously undermined the island’s political institutions, already extremely compromised by clientelism, partisan politics and corruption. In addition, the Fiscal Oversight Board has added a new layer of opacity to fiscal policymaking in Puerto Rico. The discussions among Board members have been carried out mostly behind closed doors, while interactions between the Board and the Government of Puerto Rico tend to be summarized ex post, usually through succinct letters written in rather cryptic language. It is quite ironic that the Fiscal Oversight Board, which, among other things, was given the task of increasing the transparency of Puerto Rico’s finances, has actually contributed to worsening that problem. Second, the benefits of PROMESA’s complicated territorial debt restructuring process, which combines principles drawn from both the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and from the realm of sovereign debt restructuring, remain fairly uncertain and contingent on the successful implementation of a completely new and untested legal framework for territorial bankruptcy. The risk if this experimental framework fails to adequately address Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring needs is magnified by the fragile state of the Puerto Rican economy, which has already undergone a protracted decade-long contraction. 2. Jumpstarting the Economy – The Federal Component Moving on to growth, Puerto Rico needs to devise and execute a complex, two-prong strategy to restore economic growth. First, we have to jumpstart economic growth in the short-term. Second, the island needs to formulate an economic development plan to sustain that growth over the long-term, something it has failed to do for quite some time. This already difficult task is further complicated by the austerity policies the Fiscal Oversight Board has required Puerto Rico to implement. The certified fiscal plan orders the island’s government to implement large expenditure cuts, significant tax increases, and deep structural reforms without access to any short-term financing. The implication of the Fiscal Oversight Board’s policy posture is that—unless Congress is otherwise willing to address a full-scale social crisis in Puerto Rico—Federal assistance will be necessary to jumpstart economic growth in the short-term. Congress needs to implement a comprehensive economic program, remove some of the disadvantages imposed on Puerto Rico under the current political arrangement, and eliminate some long-standing inequitable and discriminatory policies. The current situation simply does not allow for piecemeal action by Washington, a wide-ranging plan is needed. A short-term economic program for Puerto Rico at the Federal level should include for example, providing additional funding for healthcare, extending the EITC and the CTC to Puerto Rico, preserving social safety net programs, and increasing funding for education, infrastructure, and research. 3. The CNE Growth Commission – The Local Component In addition to initiatives at the Federal level, Puerto Rico needs to craft a local long-term economic development strategy and strengthen its execution capabilities. Achieving long-term, sustainable economic growth and development is a complex endeavor that requires a new set of strategies and the rebuilding of institutions; thus, there are no quick fixes or silver bullets. In other words, economic growth is not simply a function of exiguous regulation, low wages, or preferential tax treatment. Rather, the process of growth is quite complicated, involving the interplay of many variables and factors that must be present if a country is to succeed. As a first step in charting the road towards sustainable economic development, the Center for a New Economy has undertaken the task of empaneling the CNE Growth Commission for Puerto Rico. The Commission will work towards (1) identifying and suggesting ways to relax local and external constraints that inhibit the territory from speeding up the process of economic structural change towards higher productivity activities; and (2) generating opportunities to diversify the portfolio of high productivity activities in the economy. Specifically, the Commission will focus on the following areas with the potential for high impact:
  • Area 1: Identifying Sectorial Opportunities Using cutting-edge product space analysis the Commission will identify new products and services that could augment aggregate value through the use of existing productive capabilities embedded in the island’s current production structure. This methodology operationalizes the idea that it is generally easier for countries to move from products and services that they already produce to others higher in the value chain that are similar in terms of capital requirements, knowledge, and skills. Because not all feasible new products contribute in the same way to value added and growth, a key challenge along the diversification process is the identification of those goods and services that are feasible and have a higher potential to sustain economic development.
  • Area 2: Horizontal Reforms to Enhance Competitiveness At the same time, the Commission will identify opportunities for effective policy reform in areas with the potential to enhance the competitiveness of local and multinational producers across multiple sectors, such as: tax and competition policy, human capital and workforce development, energy production, and communications, information, and technology infrastructure, among others.
  • Area 3: Macro-Fiscal Policy Finally, a Working Group of the Commission will develop feasible proposals for tax policy reform with the aim of (i) enhancing the territory’s competitiveness and (ii) reducing tax distortions that may inhibit productivity growth in the private sector. This Group will work on evaluating the potential for a disciplined fiscal reform to enhance the territory’s competitiveness, given its inclusion in the US monetary union.
Conclusion In sum, Puerto Rico has been under severe economic, fiscal, and financial stress during the past decade. Furthermore, the Fiscal Oversight Board has ordered Puerto Rico to put on the equivalent of an IMF policy straitjacket without providing access to the few benefits that usually accompany IMF conditionality programs. In our view, this policy posture simply does not make sense and implementing these policies will, in a perverse way, decrease Puerto Rico’s short and medium-term capacity to honor its obligations by intensifying an already prolonged economic contraction. Second, to jumpstart economic growth in the short-term Congress needs to implement a comprehensive economic policy program, remove some of the disadvantages imposed on Puerto Rico under the current political arrangement, and eliminate some long-standing inequitable and discriminatory policies. Third, in addition to initiatives at the Federal level, Puerto Rico needs to craft a long-term local economic development strategy. This strategy should consist of sectorial, horizontal and institutional policies to promote Puerto Rico’s capability to progressively move into higher value-added activities. Thank you. Center for a New Economy Washington, DC 18 July 2017

Category: Article, CNE Blog · Tags:

Comisión de Crecimiento para Puerto Rico de CNE: Apuntes para una Agenda

Category: Article, Policy Paper, Publications · Tags:

The CNE Growth Commission for Puerto Rico: Proposed Notes Towards an Agenda

Category: Article, Policy Paper, Publications · Tags:

Endeudando al de aquí: Los préstamos por depósito diferido en Puerto Rico

7016968-many-consumers-have-put-their-spending-on-hiatus-custom
La prensa ha reportado recientemente que se ha radicado un proyecto para legalizar la practica de prestamos por deposito diferido o "payday loans." Una practica abusiva y depredadora que denunciamos en el 2006. A continuación el post y el policy brief que escribimos en aquel entonces oponiéndonos a legalizar el negocio de estos traficantes financieros en Puerto Rico.
En Puerto Rico se está contemplando actualmente legalizar la práctica de otorgar préstamos por depósito diferido, conocida en inglés como “payday lending.” En términos generales, un préstamo por depósito diferido consiste de una transacción crediticia donde un prestamista le ofrece a un consumidor un préstamo a corto plazo a cambio de un cheque personal postdatado con un valor mayor, el cual el prestamista se compromete a no depositar o negociar hasta la fecha de vencimiento del préstamo. Por ejemplo, un prestamista podría otorgar un préstamo de $200 a cambio de un cheque personal del prestatario por la cantidad de $230, el cual el prestamista se compromete a retener sin negociar hasta la fecha del próximo día de pago del prestatario, digamos en catorce días. En este caso el préstamo por dos semanas conlleva un tipo de interés anual (“APR”) de 391%. Las instituciones financieras tradicionales, por lo general, no ofrecen este tipo de producto a sus clientes. La mayoría de los proveedores de estos servicios son (1) compañías que se dedican exclusivamente a este negocio, (2) establecimientos dedicados a cambiar cheques (“check cashers”) y (3) tiendas de empeño. Hace escasamente 15 años estas compañías de préstamos por depósito diferido no existían en los Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, algunos analistas estiman que actualmente existen 22,000 establecimientos que proveen más de $40,000 millones de préstamos por depósito diferido anualmente.1 Un total de 37 estados han aprobado legislación para permitir este tipo de préstamos. No obstante, existe una gran variación con respecto al grado de reglamentación que les aplica a estos prestamistas. Sergio M. Marxuach Director de Politica Publica 24 de marzo de 2017 CNE-DownloadPublication-Button O lea el documento a continuación:

CNE Newsletter

Never miss an update!
Subscribe to the CNE Newsletter below: