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Thanks, Government — Nearly Half of Puerto Rico Is Still without Power

January 12, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken


By: Ryan McMaken

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, most of Puerto Rico lost electricity. Since electronic transactions were not longer possible under these conditions, the Federal Reserve was forced to fly a planeload of cash to the island to avoid a total breakdown of the economy there.

But even then, we were assured that the loss of power was a momentary blip. Everything would be back to normal soon.

But as of December 29 (more than three months after the hurricane hit) only 55% percent of power-company customers actually have power again.

The good news is that the “Army Corps of Engineers has projected that power will be restored for most people by March, but those in very remote areas might have to wait until May because of the difficulty in moving supplies.”

So, in some parts of the United States, when disaster strikes, one has to wait only a mere six months to have power restored.

This is partly due, not surprisingly, to the fact that electricity services function under the weight of a government-granted monopoly given to the local power company. It's not as if a competitor can come in and start working with local residents to rebuild the infrastructure. That, of course, is illegal. Besides, it's likely that non-monopolistic electric companies would only be willing to do that at high prices. But that would be verboten also, because it would be labeled “gouging.”

Needless to say, under these conditions, the standard of living for many Puerto Ricans is plummeting, and now many on the island fear a surge in crime:

Thirty-two people have been slain in Puerto Rico in the first 11 days of the year, double the number killed over the same period in 2017. If the surge proves to be more than just a temporary blip, January could be the most homicidal month on the island in at least two years, adding a dangerous new element to the island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria, its worst disaster in decades.

While the number of homicides did not immediately spike in the weeks after the hurricane struck on Sept. 20, police and independent experts say many killings appear at least partly related to its aftereffects.

The storm has plunged much of the island into darkness, increased economic hardship and contributed to a sickout by police, all fueling lawlessness. What’s more, officials say a turf war has broken …read more


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