Recovery of the Puerto Rico economy in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria means not only rebuilding the public and private infrastructure, supply chains, human capital, and other contributors to economic output but also reversing negative economic trends that existed and presented major challenges to growth even before the storms hit.
In this report, the authors explain the history of economic development and policy in Puerto Rico and discuss the state of the prestorm economy, including key economic challenges. They use the historical data on overall economic activity (unrelated to the hurricanes) to construct a counterfactual to assess the net causal effect of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on Puerto Rico's economy. The counterfactual examines what would have happened to employment, labor, population, and tourism, as well as the government of Puerto Rico's fiscal position, had the hurricanes not occurred. Observed economic indicators following the storms are then compared to this counterfactual to estimate the real net economic consequences of the hurricanes, including overall damage from the storms and the effect of the recovery effort.
The analysis provides considerable detail on the conditions in Puerto Rico before and after the 2017 hurricane season so that decisionmakers can adopt better policies in rebuilding a sustainable and healthy economic sector and, more broadly, the whole of Puerto Rico. The authors recommend a set of principles based on economic theory and provide courses of action included in the recovery plan compiled from their findings about prestorm conditions and trends and the input/observations of on-the-ground partners and stakeholders in the recovery effort.