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

By on March 4, 2019

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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.

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