Before examining Hurricane Maria’s stampede through Puerto Rico, let’s take a glimpse of this Caribbean island before the natural disaster hit. 3.4 million U.S. citizens live in this commonwealth of the United States. After being “discovered” by Columbus, the island endured Spanish colonial rule, disease, African slavery, attempted colonization by the French, Dutch, and British, the Spanish-American War, and the unending ambiguity of territorial status.
This past May, Puerto Rico declared bankruptcy with more than $70 billion in debt, exacerbated by the Jones Act, which doubles the cost of goods due to American control of Puerto Rican ports. PREPA, the main electric company on the island, has $9 billion in debt, resulting in total absence of modernization efforts of the power grid in Puerto Rico and frequent outages.
And then, Hurricane Maria happened, inflicting widespread devastation where significant challenges already existed. There is an opportunity here for procurement to play a significant role in helping Puerto Rico cope and eventually recover: by delivering the right supplies and services at the right time for the right cost in the right amounts to the right places.