Economy of Puerto Rico
|This article is outdated. (November 2012)|
|Economy of Puerto Rico|
|Currency||United States Dollar (USD$)|
|Fiscal year||1 July - 30 June|
|Trade organisations||CARICOM (observant), Interpol (sub-bureau), IOC, ITUC, UNWTO (associate), UPU|
|GDP||US$101.5 billion (2012)|
|GDP growth||+1.26% (Fed 2012)|
|GDP per capita||27,451 (nominal) (2012) |
|GDP by sector||Manufacturing: 46.4%,
Finance, insurance and real estate: 19.6%,
Transportation and other public utilities: 2.9%,
Construction and Mining: 1.7%,
|Inflation (CPI)||2.47% (FY 2010)|
below poverty line
|Gini coefficient||0.537 (2010)|
|Labour force||1.286 million (Mar 2012)|
Transportation and other public utilities: 5.2%,
Construction and mining: 4.9%,
Finance, insurance and real estate: 3.7%,
|Unemployment||13.7% (April 2013)|
|Average gross salary||$27,190 annual (May 2011) |
|Main industries||Pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, food products, tourism. (2010)|
|Ease of doing business rank||40th|
|Exports||$64.88 billion FOB (2011 est.) |
|Export goods||Chemicals, electronics, rum, beverage concentrates, medical equipment, canned tuna, apparel.|
|Main export partners|| United States 90.3 %,
United Kingdom 1.6 %,
Dominican Republic 1.4 %,
Netherlands 1.4 %,
among others. (2010)
|Imports||$44.67 billion CIF (2011 est.) |
|Import goods||chemicals, machinery and equipment, food, petroleum products, clothing, fish |
|Main import partners|| United States 55 %,
Ireland 23.7 %,
Japan 5.4 %,
among others. (2010)
|Public debt|| $67.7 billion (66% of GDP)
|Budget deficit||$1.1 billion|
|Revenues||$31.3 billion (FY2010)|
|Expenses||$29.1 billion (FY2010)|
|All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars|
|Part of a series on the|
|Economy of Puerto Rico|
|Economic history of Puerto Rico|
The economy of Puerto Rico is classified as a high income economy by the World Bank and as the most competitive economy in Latin America by the World Economic Forum. Its economy is mainly driven by manufacturing, primarily pharmaceuticals, textiles, petrochemicals, and electronics; followed by the service industry, primarily finance, insurance, real estate, and tourism.[a][b] The geography of Puerto Rico and its political status are both determining factors on its economic prosperity, primarily due to its relatively small size as an island; its lack of natural resources used to produce raw materials, and, consequently, its dependence on imports; as well as its suzerainty to the United States which controls its foreign affairs while exerting trading restrictions, particularly in its shipping industry.
At the macroeconomic level Puerto Rico has been experiencing a recession for 7 consecutive years, starting in 2006 after a series of negative cash flows and the expiration of the section 936 that applied to Puerto Rico of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. This section was critical for the economy of the island as it established tax exemptions for U.S. corporations that settled in Puerto Rico and allowed its subsidiaries operating in the island to send their earnings to the parent corporation at any time, without paying federal tax on corporate income. Puerto Rico has, however, surprisingly been able to maintain a relatively low inflation in the past decade. Academically, most of Puerto Rico's economic woes stem from federal regulations that expired, have been repealed, or no longer apply to Puerto Rico; its inability to become self-sufficient and self-sustainable throughout history; its highly politicized public policy which tends to change whenever a political party gains power; as well as its highly inefficient local government which has accrued a public debt equal to 66% of its gross domestic product throughout time.
In comparison to the different states of the United States, Puerto Rico is poorer than the poorest state of the United States, namely Mississippi. However, when compared to Latin America, Puerto Rico has the highest GDP per capita in the region. Its main trading partners are the United States itself, Ireland, and Japan, with most products coming from East Asia, mainly from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. At a global scale, Puerto Rico's dependency on oil for transportation and electricity generation, as well as its dependency on food imports and raw materials, makes Puerto Rico volatile and highly reactive to changes in the world economy and climate.
- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 3 Recent developments
- 4 Current economy
- 5 Per capita, median income, and GDP per capita
- 6 Other statistics
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
Despite its relatively small geographical area and limited availability of natural resources, Puerto Rico's productivity is exceptionally high. It has the highest nominal GDP per capita in Latin America, amounting to $26,588 in 2011. Also, Puerto Rico has the second most competitive economy among Ibero-American states, surpassed only by Chile, according to the latest World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report. The commonwealth has modern infrastructure, a large public sector and an institutional framework guided by the regulations of U.S. federal agencies, most of which have an active and continued presence in the archipelago.
The financial sector is of great prominence, accounting for 5.75% of its Gross National Product (GNP) in 2010, and, similar to any other state of the union, it's also fully integrated into the U.S. financial system, governed under federal regulations, being a constituent part of the jurisdiction of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, responsible for implementing monetary policy enacted by members of the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C. throughout the United States.
Tourism is an important component of Puerto Rican economy supplying an approximate $1.8 billion. In 1999, an estimated 5 million tourists visited the island, most from the U.S. Nearly a third of these are cruise ship passengers. A steady increase in hotel registrations since 1998 and the construction of new hotels and new tourism projects, such as the Puerto Rico Convention Center, indicate the current strength of the tourism industry. In 2009, tourism accounted for nearly 7% of the islands' gross national product.
Puerto Ricans had median household income of $18,314 for 2009, which makes Puerto Rico's economy comparable to the independent nations of Latvia or Poland. By comparison, the poorest state of the Union, Mississippi, had median household income of $36,646 in 2009. Nevertheless, Puerto Rico's GDP per capita compares favorably to other independent Caribbean nations, and is one of the highest in North America. See List of North American countries by GDP per capita.
Puerto Rico, like many other countries, has transitioned from an agricultural economy to an industrial one. Its economy is currently experiencing a transformation caused by the Information Age, albeit slowly.
Not much is known about the economic history of Puerto Rico prior to the arrival of Spaniards. The little that is known about its inhabitants, the Taíno, is that their economy was a mixture of hunting and gathering with agriculture.
The Taíno captured and ate small animals, such as mammals, earthworms, lizards, turtles, and birds. Manatees were speared and fish were caught in nets, speared, poisoned, trapped in weirs, or caught with hook and line. Wild parrots were decoyed with domesticated birds, and iguanas were taken from trees and other vegetation. Livestock was not practiced as there were no large animals native to Puerto Rico that could be raised in an agricultural setting in order to produce commodities such as food, fiber, or labor.
Fields for important root crops, such as the staple yuca, were prepared by heaping up mounds of soil, called conucos. This improved soil drainage and fertility as well as delaying erosion, and it allowing for longer storage of crops in the ground. Less important crops such as corn were raised in simple clearings created by slash and burn technique. Typically, conucos were three feet high and nine feet in circumference and were arranged in rows. The primary root crop was yuca/cassava, a woody shrub cultivated for its edible and starchy tuberous root. It was planted using a coa, a kind of hoe made completely from wood. Women processed the poisonous variety of cassava by squeezing it to extract the toxic juices. Then they would grind the roots into flour for baking bread. Batata (sweet potato) was the next most important root crop.
Contrary to mainland practices, corn was not ground into flour and baked into bread. It was cooked and eaten off the cob. Corn bread becomes moldy faster than cassava bread in the high humidity of the West Indies. The Taíno grew squash, beans, peppers, peanuts, and pineapples. Tobacco, calabashes (West Indian pumpkins) and cotton were grown around the houses. Other fruits and vegetables, such as palm nuts, guavas, and Zamia roots, were collected from the wild.
The economy of Puerto Rico was transformed drastically upon the arrivals of Spaniards in 1493 until their departure in 1898. The economy during that period was driven by slavery of the native population, the Taíno, and by slaves brought from Africa. Slaves were minimally remunerated for or forced to work in farms, mines, households, and other aspects. Agriculture was the primary mean of production, as well as livestock which was originally imported from Europe. Sugar cane, tobacco, coffee, and minor fruits were the primary cultivations which were exported to Europe and, by so, constituted the main economy for the island. Mining of gold, silver, and copper occurred as well, although not as much as in other territories during the Spanish colonization of the Americas.
United States rule
|This section lacks a single coherent topic. (November 2012)|
In 1935, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the Puerto Rican Reconstruction Administration, which provided agricultural development, public works, and electrification of the island.
In the late 1940s a series of projects called Operation Bootstrap encouraged, using tax exemptions, the establishment of factories. Thus manufacturing replaced agriculture as the main industry.
Operation Bootstrap was based on an "industrialization-first" campaign and modernization, focusing the Puerto Rican economy on exports, especially to the United States. Though initially there were large gains in employment and per capita income, recessions in the United States were magnified in the country and have repeatedly hampered Puerto Rican development.
With the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement, Puerto Rico lost a trade advantage over some Latin American countries as the right to duty-free imports to the U.S. market were expanded. Puerto Rico is also subject to the minimum wage laws of the United States, which gives lower-wage countries such as Mexico and the Dominican Republic an economic advantage in the Caribbean.
In the early 20th century the greatest contributor to Puerto Rico's economy was agriculture and its main crop was sugar. In the late 1940s a series of projects codenamed Operation Bootstrap encouraged a significant shift to manufacture via tax exemptions. Manufacturing quickly replaced agriculture as the main industry of the island. Puerto Rico is classified as a "high income country" by the World Bank.
Economic conditions have improved dramatically since the Great Depression because of external investment in capital-intensive industries such as petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and technology. Once the beneficiary of special tax treatment from the U.S. government, today local industries must compete with those in more economically depressed parts of the world where wages are not subject to U.S. minimum wage legislation. In recent years, some U.S. and foreign owned factories have moved to lower wage countries in Latin America and Asia. Puerto Rico is subject to U.S. trade laws and restrictions.
Also, starting around 1950, there was heavy migration from Puerto Rico to the Continental United States, particularly New York City, in search of better economic conditions. Puerto Rican migration to New York displayed an average yearly migration of 1,800 for the years 1930–1940, 31,000 for 1946–1950, 45,000 for 1951–1960, and a peak of 75,000 in 1953. As of 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more people of Puerto Rican birth or ancestry live in the U.S. than in Puerto Rico.
On May 1, 2006, the Puerto Rican government faced significant shortages in cash flows, which forced the closure of the local Department of Education and 42 other government agencies. All 1,536 public schools closed, and 95,762 people were furloughed in the first-ever partial shutdown of the government in the island's history. On May 10, 2006, the budget crisis was resolved with a new tax reform agreement so that all government employees could return to work. On November 15, 2006, a 5.5% sales tax was implemented. Municipalities are required by law to apply a municipal sales tax of 1.5% bringing the total sales tax to 7%.
The public debt of Puerto Rico has grown at a faster pace than the growth of its economy, reaching $46.7 billion in 2008. In January 2009, Luis Fortuño enacted several measures aimed at eliminating the government's $3.3 billion deficit, including laying off 12,505 government employees. Puerto Rico's unemployment rate was 15.9 percent in January 2010. Some analysts said they expect the government's layoffs to propel that rate to 17 percent.
In November 2010, Gov. Fortuño proposed a tax reform plan that would be implemented in a six-year period, retroactive to January 1, 2010. The first phase, applicable to year 2010, reduces taxes to all individual taxpayers by 7–15%. By year 2016, average relief for individual taxpayers will represent a 50% tax cut and a 30% cut for corporate taxpayers, whose tax rate will be lowered from 41 to 30%.
At the same time, the latest report by the President Task Force on Puerto Rico Status recognizes that the status question and the economy are intimately linked. Many participants in the forums conducted by the Task Force argued that uncertainty about status is holding Puerto Rico back in economic areas. And although there are a number of economic actions that should be taken immediately or in the short term, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the status question, identifying the most effective means of assisting the Puerto Rican economy depends on resolving the ultimate question of status. In short, the long-term economic well-being of Puerto Rico would be dramatically improved by an early decision on the status question.
During fiscal year (FY-2012), the Consolidated Budget for the archipelago, including both direct transfers from federal programs (Social Security and Medicare benefits for workers, Veteran's benefits, Pell Grants and student loan's interest subsidies and miscellaneous temporary appropriations -e.g. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 grants totalling $2.6 billion-) represented more than $28.7 billion, or approximately 30% of its GDP, while revenues surpassed $31 billion. In 2010, federal transfers amounted $16.710 billion, while the Commonwealth's government managed funds of $10.12 billion.
As result of the recent reduction of Spain's credit rating, Puerto Rico holds the second highest credit rating awarded by the agency to a Spanish speaking territory in the long term (BBB+, Stable ).
Puerto Rico has been experiencing a recession for 7 consecutive years, starting in 2006 after a series of negative cash flows and the expiration of the section 936 that applied to Puerto Rico of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. This section was critical for the economy as it established tax exemptions for U.S. corporations that settled in Puerto Rico and allowed its subsidiaries operating in the island to send their earnings to the parent corporation at any time, without paying federal tax on corporate income. The government has also experienced 13 consecutive negative cash flows since 2000, exacerbating its fragile economic situation as the government is forced to incur into new debt in order to pay the old one.[c]
Puerto Rico has, however, surprisingly been able to maintain a relatively low inflation in the past decade. Academically, most of Puerto Rico's economic woes stem from federal regulations that expired, have been repealed, or no longer apply to Puerto Rico; its inability to become self-sufficient and self-sustainable throughout history; its highly politicized public policy which tends to change whenever a political party gains power; as well as its highly inefficient local government which has accrued a public debt equal to 66% of its gross domestic product throughout time.
Federal transfer payments to Puerto Rico make up more than 20% of the island's personal income. By comparison, the poorest state, Mississippi, had a median level of $21,587, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, 2002 to 2004 Annual Social and Economic Supplements. Since 1952, the gap between Puerto Rico's per capita income and the national level has changed substantially – from one third the U.S. national average and roughly half that of the poorest state in 1952, to 10% less than the poorest state in 2007.
Local unemployment and employment loss
In 2006, the unemployment rate was 11.7%. By November 2009, it stood at 12% and had increased to 15.7% by October 2010. Currently the unemployment rate is at 13.7% The U.S. state with the highest unemployment in October 2007 was Michigan, at 7.7%, and the U.S. average was 4.4%.
Puerto Rico's labor force (seasonally adjusted) from 2005 to 2013 evidences a decline.
Puerto Rico’s payroll employment (seasonally adjusted) from 2005 to 2013 evidences a decline.
On November 15, 2006, the Legislature of Puerto Rico implemented a 5.5% sales tax. An optional 1-1.5% municipal tax had been in effect since May 2006.
Public debt and negative cash flows
The public debt of Puerto Rico has grown at a faster pace than the growth of its economy, reaching $46.7 billion in 2008. In January 2009, Governor Luis Fortuño enacted several measures aimed at eliminating the government's $3.3 billion deficit.
Since 2000, the government of Puerto Rico has experienced 13 consecutive negative cash flows which has contributed to the enlargement of its public debt, as the government incurs in new debt in order to pay the older one.
Tourism is an important component of the Puerto Rican economy supplying an approximate $1.8 billion. In 1999, an estimated five million tourists visited the island, most from the United States. Nearly a third of these were cruise ship passengers. An increase in hotel registrations, which has been observed since 1998, and the construction of new hotels and the Puerto Rico Convention Center are indicators of the current strength of the tourism industry.
The following are significant public and private projects (finished, planned or under construction) which are aimed at increasing the tourism industry in Puerto Rico:
- The Puerto Rico Convention Center (finished)
- The Puerto Rico Convention Center District (finished)
- The Pan American Port Terminal in Isla Grande for cruise ships and liners (finished)
- Coliseo de Puerto Rico, José Miguel Agrelot (finished)
- The Condado Trio Renovation Project (Condado Vanderbilt and La Concha hotels) (finished)
- Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport expansion and renovation project (under construction)
- Fairmont Coco Beach Resort
- JW Marriott Resort at Río Grande (planned)
- Numerous other hotel projects underway (including new hotels and expansions) adding hundreds of rooms to the industry
- The Mall of San Juan (under construction; estimated completion March 26, 2015) 
Cost of living
The cost of living in Puerto Rico, specifically San Juan, is quite high compared to most major cities in the United States.[d] One factor is housing prices which are comparable to Miami and Los Angeles, although property taxes are considerably lower than most places in the United States.[e] Statistics used for cost of living sometimes do not take into account certain costs, such as increased travel costs for longer flights, additional shipping fees, and the loss of promotional participation opportunities for customers "outside the continental United States". While some online stores do offer free shipping on orders to Puerto Rico, many merchants exclude Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and other United States territories.
The median home value in Puerto Rico ranges from $100,000 USD to $214,000 USD, while the national median home value sits at $119,600.[f]
One of the most significant contributors to the high cost of living in Puerto Rico is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (also known as the Jones Act) which prevents foreign-flagged ships from carrying cargo between two American ports (a practice known as cabotage).[g][h][i][j][k] Because of the Jones Act, foreign ships inbound with goods from Central and South America, Western Europe, and Africa cannot stop in Puerto Rico, offload Puerto Rico-bound goods, load mainland-bound Puerto Rico-manufactured goods, and continue to U.S. ports. Instead, they must proceed directly to U.S. ports, where distributors break bulk and send Puerto Rico-bound manufactured goods to Puerto Rico across the ocean by U.S.-flagged ships.[l]
Puerto Rican consumers ultimately bear the expense of transporting goods again across the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea on U.S.-flagged ships subject to the extremely high operating costs imposed by the Jones Act.[m] This also makes Puerto Rico less competitive with Caribbean ports as a shopping destination for tourists from home countries with much higher taxes (like mainland states) even though prices for non-American manufactured goods in theory should be cheaper since Puerto Rico is much closer to Central and South America, Western Europe, and Africa.
The local government of Puerto Rico has requested several times to the U.S. Congress to exclude Puerto Rico from the Jones Act restrictions without success.[n] The most recent measure has been taken by the 17th Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico through R. Conc. del S. 21. These measures have always received support from all the major local political parties. In 2013 the Government Accountability Office published a report which concluded that "repealing or amending the Jones Act cabotage law might cut Puerto Rico shipping costs" and that "shippers believed that opening the trade to non-U.S.-flag competition could lower costs."[j][k] The report, however, concluded that the effects of modifying the application of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico are highly uncertain for both Puerto Rico and the United States, particularly for the U.S. shipping industry and the military preparedness of the United States.
Trade with the United States
As an unincorporated territory of the United States, travel and trade between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland or other U.S. territory are not subject to international border controls. However, all goods moving from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland are subject to agriculture inspection controls by USDA. Travelers and goods move without restriction between Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories such as U.S. Virgin Islands. Travel and trade between Puerto Rico and territory outside U.S. jurisdiction are subject to international border controls.
Mail bound for the mainland from Puerto Rico and Hawaii is subject to USDA inspection for quarantined plant matter.
Puerto Rico may collect import duties only to the same degree it taxes the same goods produced domestically.
Per capita, median income, and GDP per capita
Puerto Rico has a GDP per capita of $16,300 (2010 est.). Compared to the rest of the world they are ranked 73rd. Puerto Rico's GDP per capita has been declining in recent years ($18,100 (2008 est.), and $17,400 (2009 est.)). According to statistics from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), its GDP per capita is the 4th highest in the Caribbean, behind the Bahamas ($30,400), Barbados ($25,000), and Trinidad and Tobago ($20,000).
In 2010 the median income in Puerto Rico was $19,370, which is just over half that of the poorest state (Mississippi, $37,838) and 37% of the nationwide average ($51,144). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor of the United States, the mean annual salary of residents of Puerto Rico is $27,190, the lowest among U.S. territories continuously surveyed periodically by this institution. Guam has the second lowest mean salary to $31,840, closely followed Mississippi, a state, with $34,770. This spread in mean wages could be explained by a minimum wage law for certain industries that are capped to 70% of the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
- Debt - External: $56.82 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
- Inflation Rate (consumer prices): 2.9% (2011 est.)
- Industrial production growth rate: NA%
- Household income or consumption by percentage share:
- lowest 10%: NA%
- highest 10%: NA%
- revenues: $8.1 billion Central Government, $25 Billion with Public Corporations
- expenditures: $9.6 billion Central Government
- production: 23,720 GWh
- consumption: 22,600 GWh
- exports: 0 kWh
- imports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
- Electricity – production by source:
- fossil fuel: 98.06%
- hydro: 1.96%
- nuclear: 0%
- other: 0% (1998)
- Agriculture – products: sugarcane, coffee, pineapples, plantains, bananas; livestock products, chickens 
- Exports – commodities: chemicals, electronics, apparel, canned tuna, rum, beverage concentrates, medical equipment 
- Exports: $64.88 billion (2011 est.) 
- Imports – commodities: chemicals, machinery and equipment, clothing, food, fish, petroleum products
- Imports: $44.67 billion (2011 est.) 
- Tax: 9.0%
- Labor Force: 1.286 million (March 2012)
- The Bankrupt Economy
- History of Puerto Rico
- Changing of the Guard: Puerto Rico
- UW Press: Sugar and Slavery in Puerto Rico
- pr.gov (in Spanish) "La manufactura es el sector principal de la economía de Puerto Rico."
- pr.gov (in Spanish) "Algunas de las industrias más destacadas dentro del sector de la manufactura son: las farmacéuticas, los textiles, los petroquímicos, las computadoras, la electrónica y las compañías dedicadas a la manufactura de instrumentos médicos y científicos, entre otros."
- Walsh (2013) "In each of the last six years, Puerto Rico sold hundreds of millions of dollars of new bonds just to meet payments on its older, outstanding bonds — a red flag. It also sold $2.5 billion worth of bonds to raise cash for its troubled pension system — a risky practice — and it sold still more long-term bonds to cover its yearly budget deficits."
- MRGI (2008) "Many female migrants leave their families behind due to the risk of illegal travel and the high cost of living in Puerto Rico."
- Rivera. "Housing prices in Puerto Rico are comparable to Miami or Los Angeles, but property taxes are considerably lower than most places in the US."
- FRBNY (2011) "...home values vary considerably across municipios: for the metro area overall, the median value of owner-occupied homes was estimated at $126,000 (based on data for 2007-09), but these medians ranged from $214,000 in Guaynabo to around $100,000 in some of the outlying municipios. The median value in the San Juan municipio was estimated at $170,000."
- Gutierrez. "Mr. Chairman, we are here to express our support for any effort that would unburden the economy of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico from the unfair and unreasonable restrictions that stem from dispositions of the Merchant Marine Acts of 1920 and 1936 on trade conducted between the Commonwealth and the United States mainland."
- Gutierrez. "Being treated as an extension of the United States coastline by the protectionist merchant marine statutes has imposed a heavy and unfair cost on United States citizens in Puerto Rico."
- Gutierrez. "The Merchant Marine Acts inflict costs to the Puerto Rican economy."
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- JOC (2013) "The GAO report said its interviews with shippers indicated they [...] believed that opening the trade to non-U.S.-flag competition could lower costs."
- Gutierrez. "The “cabotage” laws impose significant restrictions on commerce between Puerto Rico and the U. S. mainland by requiring that merchandise and produce shipped by water between U.S. ports be shipped only on U.S.-built, U.S.- manned, U.S.-flagged, and U.S.-citizen owned vessels."
- Gutierrez. "Because such restrictions boost shipping costs, American consumers pay the price."
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