Think tank report: Puerto Rico’s unfinished Business After Hurricane Maria
SAN JUAN – In a new report, the policy director and general counsel at the Center for a New Economy (CNE), a Puerto Rico-based nonprofit think tank, says that although the island’s critical infrastructure is finally functional more than a year after Hurricane Maria struck, and the work that required should be recognized, the challenges that lie ahead are enormous.
In “Puerto Rico’s unfinished Business After Hurricane Maria,” author Sergio Marxuach provides a snapshot of the island’s recovery by revealing some of its reconstruction challenges and options for a sustainable recovery.
“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,” the CNE wrote on the webpage where the policy paper can be accessed.
The federal recovery funds allocated to date “will not be sufficient to successfully rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure,” the CNE said.
Breaking down the matter further, Marxuach found that although the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “has acknowledged that total damages could add up to approximately $90 billion in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin islands,” but only “about half of what is anticipated to be necessary” is estimated to be available by the end of the 2018 federal fiscal year.
“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,” the report found.
As noted throughout the report, “decisions that could have permanent and damaging social and economic implications,” should be “considered and addressed early in the recovery process.”
Puerto Rico may be the only jurisdiction “to simultaneously 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,” the CNE wrote.
The report is the first in a series the 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.”