Puerto Rico Needs Fast Power and Transport Infrastructure Investment
Sept. 10, 2017 (EIRNS)—Puerto Rico’s infrastructure should become an immediate national priority for investment, given what has happened under tropical storm force winds this week. The island was sideswiped by Hurricanes Irma and Jose in succession, with winds not exceeding 70 mph. But as of Sunday morning, 600,000 electricity customers had power and 886,000 did not, according to a National Public Radio report; a large part of the capital San Juan was still blacked out. Any full hit on Puerto Rico by a major hurricane will leave it without power for weeks to months.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working now on recovering power on the island, but the electricity infrastructure is so decrepit that any success will be temporary. The single electrical utility, PREPA, cannot issue bonds, being in bankruptcy. The electrical infrastructure is so ancient that most of it is powered with imported oil, essentially by kerosene. NPR quoted one weary resident who said,
"In a situation like this where the storm really didn’t hit us, it still is causing a catastrophic event of, you know, the possibility of weeks and weeks without power. It is a bit surreal."
In addition, there is not a mile of railroad on the island. "It’s the lack of maintenance in our infrastructure," Gov. Ricardo Rosselló says in a New York Times interview today.
The disastrous austerity/control board bill which was pushed through in 2016 by Obama’s Treasury Department has made the island’s debt situation worse while imposing serious austerity on a dead economy—essentially the "Greece" policy of the European Union. Obamacon Democrats voted for more austerity against Puerto Rico on the desperate—and foolish—basis that it held creditors out of court for a year. The creditors are now back in court, some trying to do their worst against an even more ravaged economy than when Obama got involved.
A Hamiltonian national bank could negotiate reorganization of Puerto Rico’s general obligation debt while raising and issuing new, Federally guaranteed credit to develop power including new nuclear plants and a new grid; to build a coastal ring and spoke rail system; and to fully develop the international port at Ponce on the south coast, which is directly on the path of supertankers between the Panama Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar. At least a new economic beginning.