Puerto Rico Lacks Economic Data, Congressional Panel Report Says

(Bloomberg) -- A status update on Puerto Rico from an eight-member panel of U.S. congressional members stresses the dearth of reliable data on the island’s economy.

The Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, which is chaired by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, Thursday released an outline of the panel’s progress in compiling a report, due Dec. 31, that will include recommendations to reverse a decade-long recession and promote long-term growth. While the group has been gathering economic data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Puerto Rico’s Institute of Statistics, the information is insufficient and the panel will seek additional statistical products, according to the report.

“The Task Force is concerned about the relative lack of reliable data pertaining to certain aspects of the economic, financial and fiscal situation in Puerto Rico, which are necessary for productive analysis that may lead to sound public policy recommendations,” the panel wrote in the report.

The congressional officials have been analyzing about 335 submissions from stakeholders and meeting with federal agencies and commonwealth leaders to review federal laws and programs to improve Puerto Rico’s economy.

The panel was created as part of legislation enacted on June 30 to address the commonwealth’s $70 billion debt crisis. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan appointed Hatch as its chairman. Hatch, 82, a Republican, chairs the Senate Finance Committee.

The panel will draft a report by the end of this year that details any current federal laws that hamper growth on the island and suggest changes to federal programs to help turn around an economy that’s failed to grow in the last decade.

House and Senate majority and minority leaders appointed the committee members, which include Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey; Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin; Rep. Nydia Velazquez of New York; Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s congressional member; and Senators Marco Rubio of Florida; Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Bill Nelson of Florida.

The Task Force differs from a seven-member federal control board that will oversee any debt restructuring and monitor the island’s budgets.

President Barack Obama on June 30 signed into law the Puerto Rico legislation, called Promesa. The commonwealth defaulted on nearly $1 billion of principal and interest on July 1, the largest such payment failure in the $3.7 trillion municipal-bond market.