Congress has to step up
Puerto Rico needs an effort equivalent, on the island's scale, to the Marshall Plan. Here's what it should look like:
Forget about austerity: The federally appointed fiscal oversight board approved a broad package of spending cuts and tax increases that will have to be abandoned. These policies would have further contracted the island's economy and would be outright dangerous now.
Spend what's needed: Given the magnitude of the damage, Puerto Rico will need short-term help to avoid a humanitarian disaster, rebuild its infrastructure, and operate basic government services. It will also need federal funding for healthcare, housing and telecommunications, in addition to significant debt relief.
Be patient: Once Puerto Rico recovers, it will still need a long-term economic strategy. However, achieving sustainable growth will require a novel approach and the rebuilding of decrepit governance institutions. There are no quick fixes.
Why it matters: Congress must honor its legal and moral obligations to Puerto Rico. Failure to act not only hurts American citizens, it weakens the United States' moral standing in the international arena, when it argues, for example, for better treatment for Hong Kong by China, for the Palestinians by Israel, or for Greece by members of the Eurozone.
Other voices in the conversation:
- Edwin Meléndez, professor of urban affairs and planning and director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY: The island economy needs massive federal support
- Ozlem Ergun, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, Northeastern University: Short-term relief, long-term resilience
- Vivek Shandas, professor of urban studies and planning, Portland State University: Rebuilding with extreme events in mind
- Laurie Johnson, urban planner and disaster-recovery consultant, author of "After Great Disasters": Averting collapse after a catastrophe