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World Mission

Puerto Rico

Basic info

  • Area: 9,104 sq km
  • Population: 3,351,827
  • Infant mortality: 6.4 deaths/1,000 live births
  • Life expectancy: 80.9 years
  • Urbanisation: 93.6% of total population
  • Literacy: 93.3%

History

Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following Christopher COLUMBUS' second voyage to the Americas. In 1898, after 400 years of colonial rule that saw the indigenous population nearly exterminated and African slave labor introduced, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917. Popularly elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self-government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998, voters chose not to alter the existing political status with the US, but the results of a 2012 vote left open the possibility of American statehood. Economic recession on the island has led to a net population loss since about 2005, as large numbers of residents moved to the US mainland. The trend has accelerated since 2010; in 2014, Puerto Rico experienced a net population loss to the mainland of 64,000, more than double the net loss of 26,000 in 2010. Hurricane Maria struck the island on 20 September 2017 causing catastrophic damage, including destruction of the electrical grid that had been crippled by Hurricane Irma just two weeks before. It was the worst storm to hit the island in eight decades, and damage is estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

Environment

The climate is tropical marine, mild, with little seasonal temperature variation. The terrain is mostly mountains with coastal plains in the north with precipitous mountains to the sea on the west coast with sandy beaches along most coastal areas.

Economy

Puerto Rico had one of the most dynamic economies in the Caribbean region until 2006; however, growth has been negative for each of the last 11 years. The downturn coincided with the phaseout of tax preferences that had led US firms to invest heavily in the Commonwealth since the 1950s, and a steep rise in the price of oil, which generates most of the island's electricity. Diminished job opportunities prompted a sharp rise in outmigration, as many Puerto Ricans sought jobs on the US mainland. Unemployment reached 16% in 2011, but declined to 11.5% in December 2017. US minimum wage laws apply in Puerto Rico, hampering job expansion. Per capita income is about two-thirds that of the US mainland. The industrial sector greatly exceeds agriculture as the locus of economic activity and income. Tourism has traditionally been an important source of income with estimated arrivals of more than 3.6 million tourists in 2008. Puerto Rico's merchandise trade surplus is exceptionally strong, with exports nearly 50% greater than imports, and its current account surplus about 10% of GDP. Closing the budget deficit while restoring economic growth and employment remain the central concerns of the government. The gap between revenues and expenditures amounted to 0.6% of GDP in 2016, although analysts believe that not all expenditures have been accounted for in the budget and a better accounting of costs would yield an overall deficit of roughly 5% of GDP. Public debt remained steady at 92.5% of GDP in 2017, about $17,000 per person, or nearly three times the per capita debt of the State of Connecticut, the highest in the US. Much of that debt was issued by state-run schools and public corporations, including water and electric utilities. In June 2015, Governor Alejandro GARCIA Padilla announced that the island could not pay back at least $73 billion in debt and that it would seek a deal with its creditors. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico square on in September 2017, causing electrical power outages to 90% of the territory, as well as extensive loss of housing and infrastructure and contamination of potable water. Despite massive efforts, more than 40% of the territory remained without electricity as of year end 2017. As a result of the destruction, many Puerto Ricans have emigrated to the US mainland.

Ethnic groups

Ethnic Groups(%)

white

75.8

black/African American

12.4

and others)

8.5

Mixed

3.3

Religion

Religion(%)

Roman Catholic

85

Protestant and other

15

Languages

  • 90%

    Spanish

  • 10%

    English