Bureau of Economic Analysis to include Puerto Rico data

(Courtesy)

Officials seek authorization to transfer international cargo in island airports

SAN JUAN — While in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed an agreement Tuesday with the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) to be able to include Puerto Rico accounts in national economic statistics.

The governor also announced that his administration requested authorization from the U.S. Department of Transportation to transfer international cargo in Puerto Rico.

“These efforts are important for the island’s economic development,” the governor said in a statement. “The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis will now be the entity in charge of preparing the gross domestic product (GDP) reports, which include the 50 states and other U.S. territories. We hope that, through this agreement, Puerto Rico will take part in the national economy.”

Rosselló, who was accompanied by BEA Director Brian Moyer and Invest Puerto Rico Chief Executive Officer Rodrick Miller, stressed that one of the benefits of the agreement is that more and better data will be collected on Puerto Rico’s economic behavior and its response to fiscal and economic development policies, including the effects of disaster recovery programs.

“The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis will improve Puerto Rico’s competitiveness as an investment jurisdiction providing greater confidence to investors,” said Puerto Rico’s Economic Development secretary, Manuel Laboy.

The Rosselló administration is also making efforts—through the Economic Development & Commerce Department (DDEC by its Spanish acronym) and spearheaded by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González—to be able to transfer international cargo at Puerto Rico airports.

Authorization to do so would result in the creation of jobs, greater fuel sales, attract new airlines and boost secondary markets, officials said. 

The permit was requested for all existing international airports including Aguadilla, Carolina and Ponce.

“There are a lot of airplanes that fly over our airspace, but due to existing restrictions, these don’t use the island as a stop,” Laboy said, adding that Puerto Rico has “a strategic geographic position to benefit from the flights coming not only from Latin America, but also from Africa and its regions.”

The Economic Development chief further noted that “the government needs to develop new economic sectors that don’t depend as much on incentives and economic assistance and, through the authorization to transfer domestic and international cargo, we have a great opportunity.”

Regarding the BEA agreement, Congresswoman González said Washington lawmakers “have been working tirelessly on this issue through H.R. 1405, known as the Puerto Rico Data Collection Equality Act, a measure that will help to adequately address the needs of the 3.2 million American citizens living in the island by simply requiring federal statistics agencies to treat us equally, a problem that should have been taken care of long ago.”

González added that she reintroduced the Puerto Rico Air Cargo Industry Empowerment Act on April 25, saying the Stevens Amendment has been positive for the Anchorage community in Alaska, which Laboy also used as an example of the potential gains for Puerto Rico if air cabotage restrictions were eliminated. Some 20,000 jobs were created in the Alaska airport and related activities.

Northwest Airlines Cargo President Jim Friedel said that a new foreign flight a day generates approximately 90 additional jobs in Alaska. 

According to a study carried out by Puerto Rico-based think tank Estudios Técnicos, a lifting of cabotage restrictions could result, conservatively, in some 10 new flights to the island a day, creating up to 900 new jobs and a payroll increase of about $30 million.




U.S. Commerce Department to produce new economic data for Puerto Rico

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SAN JUAN – The Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce plans to produce new economic data for Puerto Rico this year that could lay the groundwork for later estimating the island’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The announcement comes amid concerns about the quality of the government’s data and Congress recommending the BEA estimate GDP for the island, which it already does for American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Just 11 months ago, the island’s government tried to merge the Institute of Statistics, which collects government data since 2007, with the Department of Economic Development and Commerce.

“BEA plans to develop and publish later this year estimates for specific components that would feed into Puerto Rico’s GDP, such as consumer spending, business investment, and trade in goods. Estimates for these components will cover 2012 through 2017 and will be available in current dollars and on an inflation-adjusted basis,” the bureau said, adding that it does not plan “to produce a topline GDP number for Puerto Rico during 2019.”

The BEA said it is “working closely with the government of Puerto Rico to access locally collected data from a variety of sources,” to address the challenge of assembling data to produce the estimates,” and that it “also will be drawing upon federal and other data sources to the extent they are available.”

Puerto Rico produces its own estimate of economic activity, but in 2011, at the local government’s request, BEA began providing assistance to improve the calculation of economic data.

The bureau also said that Hurricane Maria “underscored the need for a more modern set of statistics, adhering to international economic accounting standards, that could be used to better inform policymaking related to recovery efforts.”

For years, investors mistrust the island’s compiling of data, more recently noting discrepancies in the number of deaths from Hurricane Maria.