Puerto Rico’s Unfinished Business After Hurricane María


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It has been a little over a year since Hurricane María fractured Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and its demographic and economic landscape. Currently, all the critical infrastructure—electricity, water, telecommunications, schools, and hospitals—is functional. The enormous effort and the amount of hard work put into removing millions of cubic yards of debris; patching up the electrical grid and the water treatment system; putting hospitals in working order; temporarily fixing damaged housing; among a host of other emergency response activities, sometimes under conditions dangerous to life and limb, should be acknowledged and recognized by one and all.

However, a year after the storm a kind of nervous normalcy prevails in the island and while the amount of work that has been done since last year should not be dismissed, it is important to understand the magnitude of the task at hand and the challenges that lie ahead. The island’s economic fundamentals remain fragile, the electrical system is unstable, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority still needs electrical generators to back-up critical water pumps, and despite an effort from all sectors to be vigilant and prepared for another natural disaster, there is significant uncertainty as to how well equipped the central government and its municipalities are to face another storm.

Furthermore, federal funds allocated thus far will not be sufficient to successfully rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), using a model designed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has acknowledged that total damages could add up to approximately $90 billion in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. By the end of the 2018 federal fiscal year, estimates of funds appropriated for Puerto Rico disaster relief still range anywhere from $33 to $45 billion, or about half of what is anticipated to be necessary. And when compared to the total funds allocated to address the 2017 natural disasters, the amount obligated by FEMA’s individual assistance programs for Hurricane Maria’s disaster victims has been significantly lower than the portion obligated for victims of Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma.

As noted throughout the report, Puerto Rico’s current situation is extremely complex, a fact that should be considered and addressed early in the recovery process, before making decisions that could have permanent and damaging social and economic implications. Fully understanding the current lay of the land is important because Puerto Rico is the only jurisdiction, to the best of our knowledge, tosimultaneously go through a bankruptcy procedure, a twelve-year economic recession, a fiscal and debt crisis managed under the purview of a congressionally-mandated oversight board, and a large-scale recovery process after a massive natural disaster.

In sum, the report seeks to frame Puerto Rico’s recovery process by providing a snapshot of where the island is today and how much federal money has been allocated, casting light on some of the reconstruction challenges, and igniting a discussion on the options available for a sustainable recovery. It is the first of a series that CNE intends to produce with the goal of educating policymakers about the nuances and complications they will face when designing long-term solutions for the island.

 

Read the report here: 

 

 

 

 



 

Hace poco más de un año que el huracán María quebró la infraestructura de Puerto Rico y su panorama económico y demográfico. En estos momentos, toda la infraestructura crítica ‑—electricidad, agua, telecomunicaciones, escuelas y hospitales— funciona. Debemos todos reconocer el enorme esfuerzo y arduo trabajo realizado, en ocasiones arriesgando la vida y la integridad física, para recoger millones de yardas cúbicas de escombros; reparar la red de distribución eléctrica y el sistema de tratamiento del agua; poner a los hospitales a funcionar; y hacer reparaciones provisionales a las viviendas dañadas, entre un sinnúmero de otras actividades de respuesta ante la emergencia.

No obstante, a un año de la tormenta, en la Isla se respira una especie de normalidad ansiosa y, aunque no debemos minimizar el trabajo que se ha hecho desde el año pasado, es importante comprender la magnitud de las tareas y los retos que tenemos por delante. Las bases económicas de la Isla siguen frágiles, el sistema eléctrico sigue inestable, la AAA todavía necesita generadores eléctricos para operar las bombas de agua y, a pesar del esfuerzo de todos los sectores por estar alertas y preparados para otro desastre natural, existe mucha incertidumbre con respecto a cuán capacitados están el Gobierno central y los municipios para capear otra tormenta.

Por otro lado, los fondos federales asignados hasta ahora no serán suficientes para reconstruir cabalmente la infraestructura de Puerto Rico. La Agencia Federal para el Manejo de Emergencias (FEMA), empleando un modelo diseñado por la National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ha reconocido que los daños totales podrían alcanzar cerca de $90,000 millones en Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes. A fines del año fiscal federal 2018, los estimados de fondos autorizados a Puerto Rico para ayuda para catástrofes todavía oscilan entre $33,000 y $45,000 millones, o alrededor de la mitad de lo que se calcula que será necesario. Y cuando se compara con el monto total de fondos asignados para afrontar los desastres naturales de 2017, la cantidad que los programas de asistencia individual de FEMA han obligado para las víctimas del huracán María ha sido significativamente más baja que la porción obligada para las víctimas del huracán Harvey o el huracán Irma.

Según se señala a lo largo del informe, la situación actual de Puerto Rico es extremadamente compleja, hecho que debe tomarse en consideración y con el que se debe lidiar en los inicios del proceso de recuperación, antes de tomar decisiones que podrían tener repercusiones sociales y económicas dañinas y permanentes. Comprender cabalmente la situación es importante porque, hasta donde sabemos, Puerto Rico es la única jurisdicción que ha experimentado, simultáneamente, un proceso de bancarrota supervisado por un tribunal, una recesión económica de doce años; una crisis fiscal y de deuda manejada bajo la incumbencia de una junta de supervisión impuesta por el Congreso, y un proceso de recuperación a gran escala después de un desastre natural inmenso.

En resumen, el informe busca situar el proceso de recuperación de Puerto Rico ofreciendo un panorama de dónde está la Isla hoy y cuánto dinero federal ha sido asignado, arrojando luz sobre algunos de los retos de la reconstrucción y provocando una discusión en torno a las opciones disponibles de recuperación sustentable. Es el primero de una serie que el CNE se propone producir con el propósito de concienciar a quienes toman las decisiones acerca de las sutilezas y complicaciones con las que tendrán que lidiar al diseñar las soluciones de largo plazo de la Isla.

 

Lea el informe completo aquí:

 

 

Who Will Remake Puerto Rico for the 21st-Century Social Economy?

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@giorodriguez:  It’ll take more than just a village.  But here’s a snapshot of the villagers

source: Wikipedia

http://www.forbes.com/sites/giovannirodriguez/2013/05/27/who-will-remake-puerto-rico-for-the-21st-century-social-economy/

[UPDATE, June 2:  I got lots of comments and suggestions for people and organizations to add to this article, and I will be making additions periodically.  If you have a recommendation, let me know in the comments].

In late 2011 — a year that helped me take a major turn in my career — I visited Puerto Rico to speak at a conference.   I hadn’t thought about it too much before I got there, but when I did, it struck me:  last time I set foot on the island (or archipelago, as my savvier Puerto Rican friends like to say), was 1972.   Yes, it had been forty years (40) since my last visit.  I was confronted – no, assaulted – with a number of things to think about. What’s new? What’s different? What’s the opportunity today for people who care about Puerto Rico, a club that’s much bigger than one might think.

Puerto Rico today is facing so many challenges. Things have been difficult – desperate — before, at various moments in Puerto Rican history.  But as I have written several times here, what’s different today is the degree to which the archipelago is teetering on financial collapse, and the degree to which a wide range of social services — education, healthcare, crime prevention, just to name a few — are under stress.  One result:  more than ever, people are fleeing the homeland. Consequence:  a massive brain drain that further adds stress to the infrastructure. READ MORE

Policy and Development Challenges of the Internet Economy

There are two approaches to assessing the impact of the Internet. Cyber-optimists claim that the Internet is one of the most important innovations of the last century (or ever!) and will revolutionize the U.S. and world economies. Cyber-optimists tend to live in places like Silicon Valley, Austin, Texas, near Route 128 around Boston and in the Dulles Access corridor near my home in Washington, D.C. By and large, cyber-optimists are already plugged into the Internet world, and they think that if you are not also then you are not “with it”.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Internet skeptics, those who believe that the Internet is important, but no more important than any other part of the much larger telecommunications and computer revolution. One of the best known skeptics is Professor Robert Gordon of Northwestern, who has written a number of very influential papers. The most recent, which is scheduled for publication in the winter issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives (in fact already published at the time this talk has been edited), argues that one cannot yet detect the impact of the Internet in the economic growth figures. Moreover, looking to the future, Gordon is skeptical that the Net will make that much of a contribution to productivity growth – certainly not as much as electricity, the automobile, or air conditioning, to name a few of the many other innovations of the past century that he deems to be more important.

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