Executive Briefings

As Power Grid Sputters in Puerto Rico, Business Does Too

Miriam Gonzalez stepped outside her shuttered restaurant in this municipality near San Juan and offered an exaggerated grin. "This is my happy face," Gonzalez, 52, said, her voice heavy with mockery. "It's a very happy face. We all have it on."

Every morning, Gonzalez puts on this happy face like a coat of makeup to ward off the depression that has festered since Hurricane Maria shut down her restaurant, trampled its well-tended garden and crushed her usually upbeat spirit.

Like much of the island, she has gone without electricity since the storm hit on Sept. 20, making do with glowing lanterns, a gas barbecue grill, daily trips to the grocery store and wide open windows to stay cool. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s grid is working at less than 50 percent, leaving much of the island in the dark. For Gonzalez and other residents, the catastrophe of Hurricane Maria has been followed by an economic disaster with no end in sight.

Manuel A. Laboy Rivera, the secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Economic Development and Commerce estimated the economic losses at a minimum of $20bn, although some economists and analysts put it as high as $40bn, much of it from the drop in productivity. Puerto Rico’s economy is already $70bn in debt and will be hard hit by the steep drop in tax revenue.

“The lack of power is the root of everything,” Laboy Rivera said. “This is a very challenging time right now for Puerto Rico.’’

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Every morning, Gonzalez puts on this happy face like a coat of makeup to ward off the depression that has festered since Hurricane Maria shut down her restaurant, trampled its well-tended garden and crushed her usually upbeat spirit.

Like much of the island, she has gone without electricity since the storm hit on Sept. 20, making do with glowing lanterns, a gas barbecue grill, daily trips to the grocery store and wide open windows to stay cool. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s grid is working at less than 50 percent, leaving much of the island in the dark. For Gonzalez and other residents, the catastrophe of Hurricane Maria has been followed by an economic disaster with no end in sight.

Manuel A. Laboy Rivera, the secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Economic Development and Commerce estimated the economic losses at a minimum of $20bn, although some economists and analysts put it as high as $40bn, much of it from the drop in productivity. Puerto Rico’s economy is already $70bn in debt and will be hard hit by the steep drop in tax revenue.

“The lack of power is the root of everything,” Laboy Rivera said. “This is a very challenging time right now for Puerto Rico.’’

Read Full Article