Puerto Rico Economy Project (PREP)

Established in 2011 by the Center for International Studies, the Puerto Rico Economy Project at MIT (PREP) is a multi-year, multi-disciplinary effort to explore ways to boost sustainable economic growth in Puerto Rico.

Now housed in the Political Science Department, PREP kicked off with a two-day conference at MIT in February 2011, bringing together policy professionals from Puerto Rico with MIT scholars. The conference clarified Puerto Rico's economic and social challenges, discussed the role of the U.S. government, and situated Puerto Rico's future in the Caribbean Basin and Latin America.

Since February, the project has developed a number of approaches to investigating optimal path for development. During the Fall semester of 2011, PREP's activities included the Global Entrepreneurship Lab led by Professor Richard Locke, Class of 1922 Professor of Political Science and Management. As part of this educational program, students explored barriers to entrepreneurship in Puerto Rico and proposed strategies to expand local firms.

Senior faculty, researchers, and graduate students have also embarked on a set of sectoral and thematic studies that aim to provide a conceptual and empirical basis to design new economic development strategies for the Island. These studies focus on manufacturing, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, medical services, and education, among other topics. The research team includes Michael Piore (Political Science and Economics), Gustavo Setrini (Political Science),  Erica Dobbs (Political Science), Maria Victoria del Campo (Urban Studies and Planning), and Alberto Fuentes (Sloan School of Management), and additional researchers throughout the institute. Expected outputs include policy papers and practical ideas for expanding economic activity across distinct sectors of the Puerto Rican Economy.

This research compliments the work led by MIT's Community Innovators Lab, or CoLab, in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, headed by Dayna Cunningham. During the Fall 2011 semester, Professor Diane Davis led a practicum on sustainable community development in Puerto Rico, sponsored by CoLab, which plans to make Puerto Rico a focus for its work on community development, social innovation, and local wealth generation.

MIT’s Puerto Rico Economy Project is pleased to announce the release of its first set of working papers. Based on preliminary research carried out during the 2011-12 academic year, these reports examine the Island’s manufacturing, pharmaceutical, agricultural, medical, and education industries—identifying positive development experiences that could provide a basis for broader development strategies. View a summary of the findings as well as the full set of working papers here.

PREP is directed by Gustavo Setrini, a recent graduate of the Ph.D. program in Political Science at MIT.

Meet Gustavo Setrini:

Gustavo holds a Ph.D. from the Political Science Department at MIT, where he currently serves as research director for the Puerto Rico Economy Project. His primary research interests are the political economy of sustainable agriculture and the political consequences of agricultural growth in the era of globalization.

Gustavo's dissertation, "Global Niche Markets and Local Development: Clientelism and Fairtrade Farmer Organizations in Paraguay's Sugar Industry," examines the process of democratization within small farmer cooperatives that have received organic and Fairtrade certification. In addition, his research has examined the effectiveness of donor-funded, NGO-led development projects to promote sustainable agricultural techniques among poor farmers and to alleviate poverty by integrating small farmers into global supply chains.

As part of the Puerto Rico Economy Project, Gustavo is conducting a study of Island's food and agriculture system, which seeks to identify the constraints and opportunities for linking agricultural development to natural resource conservation, job creation, and income growth. In particular, his research examines the regulatory and educational institutions that developed on the Island to govern 'mass- market' agriculture during the twentieth century. Through a set of case studies, Setrini will propose how these institutions may be updated to support the entrepreneurial activities of two sets of actors: agribusiness firms (focused on high-value export niches) and sustainable agriculture movements (focused on local markets and food security).