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Congress has to step up

From our Expert Voices conversation on Puerto Rico's recovery from Hurricane Maria.

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: