Puerto Rico Basic Facts
History In 1993, Puerto Rico celebrated the 500th anniversary of its discovery by Colombus. Settled by explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, the Island was a Spanish possession for over four centuries. Puerto Rico came under United States sovereignty by thr Treaty of Paris signed on December 10, 1898, terminating the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917. In July 1950, the US Congress enacted Public Law 600. It provided that existing laws which defined the political, economic, and fiscal realtionship between Puerto Rico and the United States should remain in full force. It also authorized Puerto Rico to draft and approve its own Constitution, which took effect on July 25, 1952. Puerto Rico’s relationship with the US is referred to as commonwealth status.
Political TrendsFor many years there have been two major views in Puerto Rico with respect to the Island’s relationship with the United States, one favoring commonwealth status and the other favoring statehood. A small group supports independence for Puerto Rico. Voters supporting a continuing relationship for Puerto Rico with the United States Mainland have dominated Island elections over the years.
Part of the USAPuerto Rico is part of the US. There are no travel restrictions to other US areas and no customs duties or quotas on shipments between Puerto Rico and the US Mainland. Products manufactured in Puerto Rico are “Made in the USA”. The people of Puerto Rico do not vote in national elections. They are represented in Congress by a Resident Commissioner who has a voice in the House of Representatives but no vote. Most federal taxes are not levied in Puerto Rico. No federal income tax is collected from island residents on ordinary income, except in cases of Federal employees.
Geography Puerto Rico measures 100 miles by 35 miles with an area of 3,464 square miles. Topography varies from coastal flat lands to mountainous central highlands.
Climate Trade winds ensure year-round subtropical weather. The average temperature is 74 degrees F., however, highland areas are cooler. Rainfall is abundant along the north coast and in the highlands, light along the south coast.
Population Puerto Rico has 3.8 million people – the great majority of which are US citizens. Today, Island residents live in substantial middle-class circumstances, characterized by modern urban services and amenities. About 3.8 million Puerto Ricans also reside on the US Mainland.
GovernmentA democracy within the US Constitutional system, Puerto Rico’s government consists of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, with all elective positions tested by
the ballot every four years. Legal protection is provided by the Constitutions of Puerto Rico and United States, with ultimate appeal to the US Supreme Court
Language Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico. English is a compulsory second language in schools and is widely used in business, industry, research, and education.
Education Compulsory universal education is enforced. Some 800,000 students are enrolled in public and private elementary and high schools; 160,000 students are enrolled in universities, colleges, and professional and technical schools. Of Island college students, 54% are 20-24 years of age, one of the highest world attendance rates in this age group
Labor Force Of the 1.2 million in the Island’s labor force, one million are employed and some 200,000 are seeking employment. Of the total work force, 75% has 12 or more years of schooling; one-third has completed or has had some college education.
Human Resources Heavy public and private investment in education and special training programs has created a world-class work force in Puerto Rico. US Census figures show the Island has over 4,500 engineers, 7,700 engineering technicians, 1,200 computer programmers, 700 chemist and biochemists, 35,000 precision mechanics and repairers, and 30,000 technical production workers.
Productivity Puerto Rico has one of the world’s highest productivity ratios. Value-added in Puerto Rico’s factories amounts to $10.02 for every dollar of production worker wages, which is double the mainland US average for manufacturing of $4.64, according to the US Census of Business. Based on rates of growth data over time, a comparison of manufacturing productivity show the following ranking:
Profitability The profit-to-sales ratio for Island manufacturing (34.8%) is about seven times higher than the comparable Mainland US ratio (4.8%). Puerto Rico’s manufacturing profit-to-equity ratio (34.4%) is more than three time the mainland average (10.3%)
Export/Import Comparison In fiscal 1992, Puerto Rico’s total trade reached $36.2 billion, a greater value of external trade than all other Caribbean Basin nations combined. It is also higher than any Western Hemisphere country south of the US except Brazil and Mexico. Island merchandise exports of $21.1 billion in fiscal 1992 exceeded imports of $15.2 billion for a creditable $5.9 billion positive trade balance.
Manufacturing IndustriesManufacturing is the largest sector in the economy of Puerto Rico in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In fiscal 1992, manufacturing generated $13.2 billion, or 39% of GDP
Most of the Island’s manufacturing output is shipped to the mainland United States, which is also the principal source of imports required by Island industrialists. Prestigious corporations, many of them listed in the Fortune 500, currently operate large-scale production facilities in Puerto Rico.
Banking System Part of the US banking system insured by the FDIC, Puerto Rico’s commercial bank assets exceeded $23 billion as of December 1992. Currency is the US dollar. Major US, European and local banks operate on the Island.