Skip to main content

hurricane maria puerto rico Mario Tama/Getty Images

Disaster Capitalism Comes to Puerto Rico

In the year since Hurricane Maria laid waste to Puerto Rico, the island's already dire economic situation has gotten even worse. And, rather than pursue fiscal reforms and debt restructuring, the commonwealth's oversight board has just certified a program that will permanently weaken the island's economic potential.

NEW YORK – It has been more than a year since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, compounding the agony of a commonwealth that was already caught in an economic downward spiral. In addition to experiencing an out-migration crisis, the island sought what amounted to bankruptcy protection in May 2017. And under the US Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), a federal oversight board now oversees its finances.

Though Maria was a tragedy, it also created an opportunity to rewrite a flawed fiscal plan that had been certified by the oversight board in March 2017. That plan was supposed to restore the island’s economic health while also providing money to creditors who were clamoring for repayment. But the plan was projected to depress economic activity even further, and failed to establish an appropriate basis for calculating how much debt restructuring Puerto Rico would need. 

Sadly, the opportunity to right Puerto Rico’s fiscal ship has not been seized. On the contrary, the oversight board recently certified a new fiscal plan and a deal with holders of bonds issued by the Puerto Rico Urgent Interest Fund Corporation (COFINA) that could put the island in a debt straitjacket indefinitely.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.


Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.;
  1. sierakowski47_Carsten KoallGetty Images_kyczynskiangryshadow Carsten Koall/Getty Images

    The Survival of Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe

    Sławomir Sierakowski

    Following parliamentary elections in Poland and local elections in Hungary, populist autocrats in both countries remain in power, where they will continue to undermine democratic institutions. Even so, relative victories for opposition forces in both countries show that the region's "illiberal democrats" are not unbeatable.

  2. tharoor133_Drew AngererGetty Images_modihandsout Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    India’s Modi Slowdown

    Shashi Tharoor

    After Prime Minister Narendra Modi was overwhelmingly re-elected in May with an even larger majority for his party, many economists expected him to take bold steps to remove the many bottlenecks that have discouraged investors. But no one should believe the Modi government has the ability or the will to fix what it broke.

  3. drew47_Drew AngererGetty Images_trumpgiulianasmiling Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Will Trump Be Removed from Office?

    Elizabeth Drew

    Assuming the US House of Representatives votes to impeach President Donald Trump, the fact remains that there are far fewer votes in the Senate than will be needed to convict him and remove him from office. But the willingness of Congress – including the Senate – to continue tolerating his dangerous conduct is now truly in question.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions