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Puerto Rico's Pharma Industry: How Long Can It Wait For An Operational And Reliable Electrical Grid?

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I analyze export-import data, connecting it to trade policy, life Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Most of the world’s leading drug manufacturers have operations in Puerto Rico — but for how long? (Shutterstock)

Get ready for another lesson in international trade, perhaps its agility, courtesy of the 2018 hurricane season.

The first lesson came with Hurricane Harvey and the nation’s refineries around Houston, which were temporarily brought to their knees.

This lesson is courtesy of Hurricane Maria.

It is not about the suffering of the Puerto Rican people, an astonishing three in four of whom remain without power more than one month after Hurricane Maria clobbered the island.

This is about whether Puerto Rico’s powerful pharmaceutical industry, which is responsible for about 25% of all U.S. pharma exports, is really going to be able to weather the storm, as several of the multinational drug-makers have assured us in the days and weeks since Maria struck the Caribbean island.

I am raising my hand as a skeptic.

It’s as simple as this. Imagine if three of four people in your state had been without power for more than a month. Do you really think work would be progressing as if all was right with the world? Having lived in Florida for more than three decades, and having gone through a few debilitating power outages over the years, I will answer that question for you: No.

It’s more than power, of course, that makes it hard for people to get to work. It’s roadways that aren’t immediately passable. Gasoline that is hard to find. ATM machines that don’t work. Stores, including groceries, than can’t open or face challenges in keep shelves stocked.

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