The Island That Can Save America – Puerto Rico

From TheHill: The island that can save America

As we focus on rebuilding our formerly vibrant pharmaceutical manufacturing base, policymakers should remember the place where so much of it was once located: Puerto Rico. That began to change in 1996, when federal tax policy spurred manufacturers to move out of Puerto Rico to foreign countries with cheap labor and low taxes, like China and India.

Puerto Rico can still offer immediate solutions to the current crisis, however, if the administration and Congress use the next relief package to create economic incentives to address two urgent needs at once: re-domesticating pharmaceutical manufacturing and stimulating the Puerto Rican economy.

Trump Threatens to Abandon PR Recovery Efforts

From the WashPost this morning: Trump threatens to abandon Puerto Rico recovery efforts. President Trump served notice that he may pull back federal workers from Puerto Rico, effectively threatening to abandon the U.S. territory amid a humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

This is a truly alarming development; and I wonder if it is even legal to do so?

Update: comment from the Mayor of San Juan in response to the President’s tweet:  wa ‘You are incapable of empathy and frankly cannot get the job done.’



Financial Problems in PR Undercut Response Capabilities

Puerto Rico poses a unique set of challenges, which have caused immense problems with disaster response. From Bloomberg News: Puerto Rico’s $74 Billion Burden Left It Helpless When Maria Hit. Years of crushing debt and dwindling budgets took their toll. Roads and utilities crumbled, and ranks of rescuers thinning.

Long before Hurricane Maria struck Sept. 20, a man-made disaster left the bankrupt U.S. commonwealth vulnerable, according to a review of the territory’s finances and $74 billion debt.

Puerto Rico’s Trouble With Mutual Aid from States

From Bloonberg News: States’ Aid to Puerto Rico Delayed by Slow Request, Money Woes.

“There were some concerns” about Puerto Rico’s ability to repay the states, said Mike Sprayberry, president of the National Emergency Management Association, a group of state disaster-response coordinators. It runs the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which coordinates most state-to-state assistance.

Puerto Rico was slower than Texas or Florida to make its first formal request to EMAC for help from other states.

Another Impediment to Recovery: Lack of Public Transportation

See this Bloomberg article: Puerto Rico’s Love of Cars is Jamming Its Recovery.

So far, among the existing deficiencies in structures and services we have the following:  lack of sturdy infrastructure, frail electric grid, housing that is not well built and insured against winds and water, lack of fuel, lack of food and water, and now lack of public transportation. And one must aid economic recession and bankruptcy – of the electric utility and the commonwealth. How much of these deficiencies can and will be corrected during the recovery process?  FEMA has a huge challenge and many years of effort ahead.

As follow blogger, Eric Holdeman, noted in his blog today (10/3):

Puerto Rico had many issues before this event and they cannot dig themselves out of their situation now without massive aid from the federal government. It is a fact of life, and lives are what is on the line, and still are in this destroyed island.

Now is not the time to try to score political points, now is the time to just plain help as much as we can.

Response in PR- It’s Complicated

So far, I have seen the poor response to the disaster in Puerto Rico liked to that of Katrina in 2005, and called worse than the response by the U.S. to Haiti Earthquake (2010). Here are some of the details on why things are going so slowly:

From the WashPost:  Getting relief supplies to Puerto Rico ports is only half the problem.

From the Wall St. Journal: Puerto Rico Aid Trickles In. Damaged roads and few truck drivers are among the logistical challenges facing the relief effort.

Update:  San Juan Mayor Fumes After Top Trump Official Calls Puerto Rico Response A ‘Good News Story’. “Damn it, this is not a good news story. This is a people are dying story.”



The Plight of Puerto Rico – updated

From Reuters: Power blackout leaves darkened Puerto Rico isolated and paralyzed.

The Diva thinks the situation is Puerto Rico is more dire than any ever seen in the U.S. The extent of the devastation and the fact that both the power co. and the  Commonwealth government seem to resemble post-war Germany more than any example of the aftermath of a natural disaster in the U.S.

As of Sept. 27, several newspapers have articles that detail how poorly the disaster response is going, giving President Trump some of the blame for lack of leadership.

Presently, I doubt that the National Disaster Recovery Framework will be adequate to deal with the extensive damage and unique requirements of Puerto Rico. The ratio of destruction is higher than any previous natural disaster. Therefore, the  recovery process may need a Marshall Plan approach.

Please see comments from readers that follow.

Update: On Sept. 28th, see this article from the NYTimes, which also mentions a Marshall Plan type recovery plan: Washington Set Puerto Rico Up for Disaster