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Failure to assist Puerto Rico could precipitate humanitarian, economic disaster

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Rebecca Valli

Hurricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico, leaving millions without power and still dealing with flooded roads and disastrous conditions.


Steven C. Kyle

associate professor, macroeconomics policy expert

Cornell University economist Steven C. Kyle, an expert in macroeconomics and government policy in the U.S. and in low-income countries, says the need for assistance is now so dire, it’s impossible to ignore.

Kyle says:

“Puerto Rico was already in the throes of a deep recession with hope for only minimal assistance from the U.S. government to help with the situation. After the passage of Hurricane Maria, it is now thrown back to the pre-electricity age with power out for an indefinite period of time throughout the island. Some estimates put the time needed to rebuild the system in terms of months, and that is only the electrical system – virtually all infrastructure has suffered some degree of damage, much of it quite extreme.

“The need for assistance is now so dire it is impossible to ignore – to do so would precipitate a humanitarian disaster even greater than the one already in progress. In terms of economic activity, it really is impossible to say when or how the island will return to ‘normalcy.’ What we can say is that ‘normalcy’ whenever it does happen, won’t look like the old normal.

“Certainly, Puerto Rico will always have a major tourist industry but what other sectors will be important is now up for debate. Truly, the slate has been wiped clean and it up to the rest of us to help our fellow citizens first rebuild the basics of a functioning society and then try to reestablish a basis for future economic growth.”


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