Current situation in puerto rico: Puerto Rico — latest news, breaking stories and comment
Puerto Rico Tourism Update 2023
Updated February 6, 2023
Is it possible to travel to Puerto Rico in 2023? Absolutely!
In this Puerto Rico tourism update, we cover everything you need to know about travel to the Island of Enchantment. Below, we discuss the latest COVID updates for Puerto Rico as well as why tourism is important for the island’s recovery from hurricanes Maria and Fiona.
For everything from safety tips to restaurant recommendations, work with a local to plan your trip. No one knows Puerto Rico like the locals do. Learn more.
Table Of Contents
- Puerto Rico and the pandemic
- Hurricane Fiona Update
- How tourism helps Puerto Rico’s economy
- Why you should plan a trip to Puerto Rico
- Puerto Rico hidden gems
- Visit Puerto Rico on a cruise
- Best time to visit Puerto Rico
What to know about Puerto Rico and the pandemic
For Americans, Puerto Rico is an easy and relatively safe place to visit when it comes to COVID. It’s similar to traveling between states; Americans don’t need a passport since it’s a U.S. territory and COVID rules are minimal at this point.
Here’s the latest:
There are no vaccine or testing requirements for Americans, although the CDC does recommend the COVID vaccine before travel.
Masks are recommended anywhere you can’t guarantee the vaccination status of those around you and on public transportation but are not required. Keep in mind that Individual businesses can implement their own masking and vaccine rules, so be prepared by packing masks and your vaccination card.
You can always check in with a local to get an on-the-ground perspective of what life is like in Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Fiona Update
Don’t the news from the 2022 hurricane season discourage you from traveling to Puerto Rico. The resilient island bounced back quickly, especially in tourist areas, after Hurricane Fiona hit in September 2022. The San Juan Airport was fully operational within just a couple of days after Fiona made landfall. Hotels that were closed opened up quickly as well. At this point, most indoor activities are back to normal as are many outdoor activities. Locals in Puerto Rico know all the details and can tailor your itinerary to make sure you get to see the best of what’s open right now and help you support local recovery by visiting off-the-beaten-path, independently-owned places.
Hurricane Irma and Maria recovery are ongoing as well, but the remaining damage from the 2017 storms isn’t obvious in tourist areas. Emergency repairs have been made, but long-term infrastructure upgrades and repairs are incomplete at present.
Why travel now? Tourism supports the island’s economy
People in Old San Juan | Tatiana Rodriguez/Unsplash
As Puerto Rico — and the rest of the world — begins to recover from the COVID pandemic, tourism dollars are more important than ever.
The CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, Brad Dean, noted that tourism makes up 10% of Puerto Rico’s GDP. Following Hurricane Maria in 2017, he said: «The people of Puerto Rico have shown great resiliency…they are writing the textbook on how to use tourism to fuel economic recovery.»
Tourism post-Hurricane Maria helped the island recover. Now, tourism can help Puerto Rico recover from the pandemic and Hurricane Fiona.
That’s especially true if you spend your tourism dollars at local businesses and skip the touristy chains.
When you connect with a Puerto Rico local to plan your trip, more than two-thirds of the flat fee goes directly into their pocket.
And let’s be honest — we could all use a vacation
A stunning Puerto Rico sunset | MyCoolPhotos/Pixabay
For Americans, travel to Puerto Rico is easy — and often fairly affordable. There are tons of great hostels on the island, as well as many boutique hotels.
Plus, going to Puerto Rico means you’re in for a real adventure—whether that means exploring old forts in San Juan, surfing in Rincon, sipping piña coladas in Ponce, or enjoying the white sands of Playa Flamenco.
All in all, Puerto Rico can offer a wonderful respite from the daily grind. And as the island recovers from the pandemic, your tourism dollars can make a positive impact.
Work with a local to plan your trip to Puerto Rico.
Are piña coladas on your Puerto Rico bucket list? Get a free sample at Barranchina in San Juan. They claim to have invented the drink!
What kind of traveler are you?
Let’s face it. People want different things when they travel. Rather than spending hours sifting through blogs and top 10 lists written by people who may have totally different interests than you, why not start by sharing a little about what’s important to you when exploring a new destination?
Select your travel preferences below and let a local travel planner with ViaHero take it from there. Your personalized Puerto Rico recommendations, itinerary, and maps are just a few clicks away.
Puerto Rico is an excellent place to escape (and these hidden gems support the local economy)
The list of fun and interesting places to visit in Puerto Rico feels endless, but here are a few local favorites.
Crab Island Rum Distillery — Visit Vieques Island to enjoy artisan rum in a locally-owned distillery. Snag a seat at the bar and let the bartender recommend which rums to try, either on their own or mixed into tasty cocktails.
Secret Garden Art Gallery — Admire and purchase paintings, photographs, and jewelry created by local artists in Rincon. The work here is inspired by nature and includes underwater photography, driftwood sculptures, and sea glass jewelry.
Pork Highways — Lechón, spit-roasted marinated pork, is a traditional part of Christmas meals, but is available all year. Businesses line up along the streets of Naranjito, Trujillo Alto, and Cayey, the island’s three Pork Highways, selling lechón and other delicious dishes.
Las Salinas de Cabo Rojo — Snap photos that will stun your Instagram followers and see six different ecosystems at “Pink Beach” aka the Salt Flats. While the flats are known for their pink color, the hues vary constantly depending on the amount of salt, bacteria, and algae in the water. Spend a night in Boquerón Village and enjoy a meal at one of the many seafood shacks that pop up along the sidewalks.
You can even see the local side of Puerto Rico on a cruise
Ready for a cruise vacation? Puerto Rico’s ports are ready to welcome you. Most cruises in the region dock for one day on the island and offer similar shore excursions across cruise lines. If you want to get off the beaten path, ask a local Hero to plan your day for you. With a custom itinerary from a local, you can feel comfortable navigating Old San Juan at your own pace, venturing out to the beach, and opening doors to restaurants that aren’t on the standard cruiser’s itinerary.
«How did I ever not travel like this?! Lia’s local insight & planning was a game changer. It’s like having a digital concierge, travel agent, and local fixer all rolled into one!»
—Kate, ViaHero Traveler
But when’s the best time to go to Puerto Rico?
The best time to visit Puerto Rico depends on your preferences. But we can give you guidance on the weather, things to do, and other factors that might influence your decision.
Summer (July-September) — It’s hot, humid, and rainy, but July and August are popular anyway. Hurricane season begins in June and stretches into the fall, and hurricanes are most likely to hit in September. Because it’s the wet season, there are great deals to be found on hotels and more.
Fall (October — early December) — It’s still wet and it’s still hurricane season until the end of November. However, fall is an appealing time to visit for celebrations including patron saints days, Rincón Surfing Festival, Calle Loíza Culinary Fest, and Jayuya Indigenous Festival.
Winter (December — March) — With average temperatures ranging from 70 — 83 degrees Fahrenheit and low rainfall, many consider this the best weather season in Puerto Rico. It’s high season for tourism because that balmy weather is a big draw for those of us wishing to escape cold, snowy days. Celebrations abound in winter including Día de los Reyes (Three Kings Day), Carnaval, Semana Santa, and Christmas.
Spring (April — June) — Warmer and rainier than winter, but cooler and drier than summer, spring can be a nice time to visit. The spring flowers are gorgeous, winter crowds are gone, and while the rainy season technically begins in April it isn’t in full swing yet. It’s also harvest time for coconut, mango, shrimp, and oysters.
Ready to vacation in Puerto Rico? Chat with a local who can create a custom itinerary based on your interests and budget.
Still have questions about travel to Puerto Rico?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.
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Puerto Rico’s tragically foreseeable crisis
With help from Brakkton Booker, Joseph Gedeon, Minho Kim, Ella Creamer and Charlie Mahtesian
Downed power lines on a road in Puerto Rico, as the island awoke to a general power outage on Sept. 19, 2022. | Jose Jimenez/Getty Images
What up, Recast family! President Joe Biden declares the pandemic is over, and questions arise over whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had the budget authority to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Plus, Adnan Syed, whose case inspired the megahit podcast “Serial,” is freed from prison. First though, we focus on the latest unfolding in Puerto Rico.
The latest collapse of Puerto Rico’s power grid after it was thrashed by Hurricane Fiona over the weekend was a foreseeable crisis that activists, including Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, have been working to prevent — a crisis deeply rooted in the island’s status as a U.S. territory.
Turn back the calendar to five years ago today: Hurricane Maria, coming less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma, was the strongest hurricane to hit the island in nearly a century.
Maria, a Category 4 storm that caused an estimated 2,975 deaths, decimated Puerto Rico’s power, water and health care systems.
The island has never truly recovered from that blow.
Downed power lines and debris are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 26, 2017. | Gerald Herbert/AP Photo
In those intervening years, those living on the island have had to endure multiple crises, including earthquakes that further destabilized the power grid, not to mention the Covid-19 pandemic.
With Fiona, the island suffered yet another total blackout Sunday when the then-Category 1 storm knocked out power to 1.5 million customers, dumped some 32 inches of rain on some parts of the island and triggered catastrophic flooding and widespread loss of water service.
Power has been restored to 19 percent of those customers as of Tuesday morning.
Fiona is not an outlier. Puerto Ricans living on the island frequently deal with the possibility of losing power, regardless of whether or not a storm is passing through. In April, an island-wide blackout caused by a possible equipment failure knocked out power to parts of the island for five days.
The unplanned outages pose threats to equipment essential for businesses and hospitals, including the refrigerators people need to store their daily medications such as insulin used by diabetics. And drinking water has been disrupted to two-thirds of people living on the island, at least partly due to the lack of electricity and flooding that has overrun systems.
“Life on the island is becoming unsustainable, but at the same time people are there fighting for things to get better,” Lía Fiol-Matta, senior counsel at LatinoJustice, an organization that advocates for decolonization of the island.
Bad Bunny is one of those people. The rapper’s latest music video, released last week for his song El Apagón, features news reports about LUMA Energy, which he’s sharply criticized at his concerts for the power grid failures.
LUMA took over management of the electric grid in June 2021, which had previously been operated by the government-run Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which had gone bankrupt.
“The situation in Puerto Rico is linked to the colony status of the island,” said Sheilla L. Rodríguez Madera, a professor of global and sociocultural studies program with Florida International University.
Activists blame the ongoing impact of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act — commonly known as PROMESA, or promise in English — which was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
It created a program to restructure Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt and established the Financial Oversight and Management Board, which imposed austerity measures that advocates argue have only worsened the poverty crisis.
“It’s the powerlessness of people on the island to make major decisions about their own lives and their own destinies,” Fiol-Matta said.
It was the federal government that created PROMESA and made the decision to establish the board to take control of Puerto Rico’s finances — and some say the island’s future.
Not having voting representation in Congress and not being able to cast votes in the presidential election “does not help the situation here,” said Ruth Santiago, a community and environmental attorney in Puerto Rico and a member of the activist group Queremos Sol, or We Want Sun.
But even if Puerto Rico had voting power, it would experience similar challenges to places like New Orleans and Houston with majority Black or brown populations, she said.
“What we’re seeing is when these natural disasters strike, injustices are perpetrated,” Santiago said.
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi pictured at a press conference in 2019 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. | Angel Valentin/Getty Images
Puerto Rican legislators and Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, a Democrat, gathered last week at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., to urge Congress to pass the “Puerto Rico Status Act.” It would facilitate a binding vote in 2023 for the residents of Puerto Rico to determine what their status should be.
“It is time to end colonialism within America. It is time to end the territorial relationship of Puerto Rico with the United States,” Pierluisi said.
Should that legislation pass both chambers of Congress and be signed into law by Biden, one option residents of Puerto Rico could consider would be independence from the United States. Jenniffer González-Colón, the island’s non-voting member of Congress, says she’s confident Puerto Ricans would choose statehood instead.
For all the bombast Pierluisi displayed in Washington last week, residents say his administration at least bears some of the responsibility for the island’s current woes, including the ongoing power disruptions.
Pierluisi, who has previously defended LUMA, called the system “stable” in an interview with POLITICO earlier this year — which has infuriated residents living with the ongoing outages. But, more recently, he said “his patience is running out” and there would be “consequences” for the company if the situation didn’t change immediately.
Much of activists’ anger, though, is reserved for the energy company, LUMA.
People march along Las Americas Highway to protest the LUMA Energy company in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 15, 2021. | Carlos Giusti/AP Photo
For its part, LUMA has blamed the fragility of the power system on “decades of mismanagement and neglect,” stemming partly from under-investment in basic maintenance by the bankrupt, government-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
The complaints about the state of the grid are intertwined with a fierce debate over shifting Puerto Rico toward solar power and away from its traditional reliance on fossil-fuel energy and long-distance power lines.
By one estimate, 135,000 people left the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria as employment dried up and infrastructure that collapsed during the storm never recovered.
We’ll be keeping tabs on whether Fiona’s aftermath exacerbates that trend.
All the best,
The Recast Team
Power dynamics are changing. With The Recast, you’ll get a twice-weekly breakdown of how race and identity are the DNA of American politics and policy.
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ARIZONA’S POLICE FILMING LAW SHELVED
Phoenix Police officers watch protesters rally on June 2, 2020, in Phoenix during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd. | Matt York, File
A first-in-the-nation law, which was days away from going into effect in Arizona making it a crime for the public to record the law enforcement within an 8-foot radius during a police stop, has been blocked by a federal court. POLITICO’s Joseph Gedeon breaks down the latest.
U.S. District Judge John J. Tuchi issued a preliminary injunction last week blocking the law from taking effect Sept. 24. He noted there were already state laws barring interference with police.
Additionally, the office of the Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, in a motion filed earlier this month, sidestepped responsibility for defending the law, saying “the Attorney General is not the proper party to defend the merits” of the law, adding that “local and county prosecutors are the proper entities to defend this statute.” The attorney general’s office also said it did not oppose the preliminary injunction.
“I’ll be looking at the judge’s injunction ruling to find out exactly what the constitutional issues were, and I fully intend to be back in January introducing an amended version that will test judicial scrutiny,” John Kavanagh, a former police officer and current Arizona state representative who sponsored the bill, told The Recast on Monday.
Kavanagh says its goal is not to infringe on individual rights, but to create a protective space between police and bystanders.
“The need for the bill came after I heard that there were organized groups critical to police that were following police around or maybe responding to radio calls and videotaping the interchange with the person, which is fine,” he said. “But some of these people were very in-your-face and they were walking up to within a foot or two of the encounter. I know a distraction like that can be very dangerous.”
As the law stands now, civilian video — like the one that captured the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis in 2020 — would be illegal, unless the officers on scene granted permission for onlookers to record.
The ACLU and several news organizations in Arizona filed a lawsuit against the measure, arguing it violated First Amendment protections. Legal scholars also note that citizens recording law enforcement activities have increasingly become a primary tool for police accountability and transparency.
“Even if they don’t know about this law going into practice, they might not realize that they’re committing a criminal violation, because they’re accustomed to police wanting to shut down recordings even without a specific statutory basis,” Ben McJunkin, an associate professor of law at Arizona State University.
A pedestrian photographs a member of the U.S. National Guard as he patrols Hollywood Blvd., in Los Angeles. | Chris Pizzello, File
At least seven states require police to wear body cameras – Arizona is not one of them. The National Conference of State Legislatures told POLITICO they were unable to find an anti-police recording law in any other state.
McJunkin says copycat laws should “absolutely” be expected in other states, as citizen recording police interactions has not been an issue challenged in higher courts.
Wisconsin voters cast their ballots in the state’s primary at the South Shore Park Pavilion in 2016 in Milwaukee. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo
Following the 2020 elections, there was plenty of evidence of Republican Party inroads with Latino voters. This fall’s midterm elections will be yet another test of whether those gains will continue. A few weeks ago, The Recast talked to Latino Democrats in Illinois, who said the Republican gains with this bloc are marginal at best.
In the neighboring state of Wisconsin though, even a marginal political shift to the right among Latinos could be detrimental to Democrats, as they are now the largest minority group in the state.
Are the Republican efforts paying off in Milwaukee, a Democratic bastion with a sizable Hispanic population? POLITICO’s Minho Kim spoke with Marty Calderon, an evangelical pastor who spent years building Latino support for conservatives, and Veronica Diaz, a church organizer and a former Republican candidate for Wisconsin House in 2019.
THE RECAST: What turned you to the Republican Party? What’s the appeal of the party to Latino voters?
DIAZ: A lot of Latinos have voted [Democrat] based on how their parents voted, not for values they were passionate about: faith, family, education and hard work. I had hard-working parents who busted their tail for little money. They wanted to be a role model for us, so that we work hard, go to school and create our success. [I did that] for myself, and I know it can work for everyone else.
CALDERON: For many years, I had been addicted to drugs. But the connection I made with God changed my life. [As a pastor,] I remind those who come to my door that they can change their lives, be held accountable and turn things around. I’m about working with everybody, but there are things I stand strongly for. I’m pro-life; I am for families. I believe in school choices and that we need to work and earn our wages.
THE RECAST: Are Latino voters in the city swinging more favorably toward the Republicans?
CALDERON: Yes. Milwaukee has been a Democratic city for so long. People are tired of same-old politics. Conservative Latinos who had been challenged by their friends and families are now coming out and speaking for themselves. The community never sees [politicians] again, [after] you come out to vote. [That’s why] turnouts are horrible. Democrats need to be held accountable for preaching one message and then doing something different. Democrats talk about [reducing] gun violence, but they need to be here to do it. People want those who keep their message strong and truthful.
DIAZ: I think [Republican support] is going to grow. We’re voting Democrat, but we’re poor, have more crime and have less companies wanting to come into the city. So I’m happy to see more Republican presence. They have an office now: RNC Hispanic Community Center in the heart of the South Side of Milwaukee. There was an RNC tent at Fiesta Mexicana, letting people know about their candidates. Latinos get to open their eyes about the Republican party [at] events like that.
ICYMI @ POLITICO
WATCH: Biden declares the pandemic is “over”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a rally on Aug. 19, 2022, in Pittsburgh, Pa. | Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Migrant flights scrutinized— Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) stands by his decision to fly scores of mostly Venezeulan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. But as POLITICO’s Gary Fineout reports, some Democrats are questioning if the flights were legal “since they originated in Texas and not Florida.”
Running again? — Speaking of Texas, the state’s junior Sen. Ted Cruz is embarking on a midterm tour that will take him to some 17 states before November. Some of those states include Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. POLITICO’s AlexIsenstadthas more.
THE RECAST RECOMMENDS
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Back to school— The second season of one of TV’s most heartwarming programs, “Abbott Elementary,” debuts tomorrow night, on the heels of the show’s bigwins at this month’s Emmys Awards season.
Recommended reading — “Black Skinhead: Reflections on Blackness and OurPolitical Future.” The collection of essays by Brandi Collins-Dexter out today, explores the tenuous and fraught relationship between Black voters and the Democratic party.
Ling Ma— author of the powerhouse sci-fi novel “Severance” — brings us a short story collection, “Bliss Montage.” It’s out now, and we’re a little obsessed with the cover art.
Apple Is in a Pickle— The content creator faces a tough decision over what to do with its Civil War-era film “Emancipation” starring Will Smith. The studio had visions of Oscar contention, but that was shot before “Slapgate” unfolded.
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90,000 Four wins to Tokyo. What awaits Russia in the Olympic qualification?
At the 2019 World Cup, the semi-finalists were determined, as well as all the teams that qualified either immediately for the Olympics, or for its qualifying tournament, where the Russian team will play.
First of all — read (well, or refresh your memory) with the rules and the course of the qualifying campaign.
CURRENT SITUATION IN THE SELECTION FOR THE MEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT OF THE 2020 OLYMPIAD
8 out of 12 participants of the Tokyo
Games are already known
Host country — Japan
7 more teams qualified from the 2019 World Cup, showing the best results among the representatives of their continents there:
2 from Europe — Spain (1-4 places at the World Cup), France (1-4 ),
2 for America Argentina (1-4), USA (5-8),
1 from Oceania — Australia (1-4),
1 for Africa — Nigeria (17),
1 from Asia — Iran (23).
The last four tickets will be played in a special qualifying tournament in 2020.
16 of the 24 participants in the Olympic qualification are already known
These are the 16 best teams for the 2019 World Cup from those that did not qualify directly in Tokyo (regardless of the continent):
Poland, Serbia, Czech Republic (5th-8th places World Championship), Lithuania (9), Italy (10), Greece (11), Russia (12), Brazil (13), Venezuela (14), Puerto Rico (15), Dominican Republic (16), Germany (18), New Zealand (19), Tunisia (20), Canada (21), Turkey (22).
How the 8 remaining Qualifiers will be determined
The best teams from different continents according to the FIBA rating of those that did not qualify for the Olympics or qualifying from the 2019 World Cup:
2 from Europe — now Slovenia (7th place in the world ranking), Croatia (9),
2 for America — Mexico (14), Uruguay (34),
2 for Africa — Senegal (37), Angola (39),
2 from Asia and Oceania (single ranking) — China (30), Philippines (31).
Where, when and how will the qualification tournament take place
The Olympic qualification will take place in June 2020 and will include four separate mini-tournaments of six teams. Each tournament will take place on the site of one of the teams participating in it. The winner of each tournament will receive a ticket to the Olympics.
FIBA has not yet made an official statement on the qualifying formula. Before the Rio 2016 Games, when six teams also played in each tournament, the system was as follows: two groups of three teams each, two go to the playoffs, then the semi-finals and the final. The qualifying draw then took place in January, and teams from the same continent were deliberately «seeded» in the «baskets» together in order to separate them into different sixes.
Representation of the continents in the Olympic qualification
11 teams from Europe — Serbia, Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Italy, Greece, Russia, Germany, Turkey, Slovenia (?), Croatia (?),
7 from America — Brazil, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Canada, Mexico (?), Uruguay (?),
3 from Africa — Tunisia, Senegal (?), Angola (?),
2 from Asia — China (?), Philippines (?),
1 from Oceania — New Zealand.
Question marks in parentheses mean that after the World Cup the FIBA rating will be updated and there may be changes in the top eight qualifying teams.
EXCEPT SERBIA AND LITHUANIA THERE IS SOMEONE TO FEAR
So, if the qualifying tournament scheme remains the same as it was four years ago (and this is very likely), we can already estimate now: what kind of opponents will the Russian team get, and how difficult will it be for them to get to Tokyo?
The most dangerous competitors are, of course, the Europeans. There is not a single obviously weak team, and Serbia and Lithuania belong to the top of the world elite, even if neither of them are in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup. There are a lot of NBA players in these teams, they are brilliantly equipped and it will be extremely difficult for the Russians to cope with them.
Among the representatives of other continents, some American teams can be distinguished — Brazil, Puerto Rico, Canada. Although this is already quite our “weight category”. All the rest — a lower rank, thinner smoke.
Most likely, during the “seeding” before the draw, the Europeans will be packed as tightly as possible into three “baskets” according to their position in the FIBA rating. At the moment, Russia occupies 10th place there and does not get into the strongest of the «baskets» of the Old World, unlike the same Serbs with Lithuanians. Our «floor» is the second in a row, and the Germans, Poles and Czechs are on the third. Although the latter, thanks to their success at the World Cup, can still rise up, ahead of, for example, Turkey.
The current version of the ranking was published at the end of February, when the World Cup qualifiers ended. And before that, the rating was also updated after each «window» for the national teams. So the next version, in theory, should be born next week, right after the end of the tournament in China. And the rating should not change any more before the qualifying draw. It takes into account the results of only official tournaments, and the new qualifying round (now the continental championships 2021) starts on February 20, 2020. The draw, apparently, will take place in December or January.
NORMAL COMPOSITION NEEDED. AND A LITTLE LUCK
However, for Russia the rating is not so important. Its formula is quite complicated, but even without detailed calculations it is clear that we cannot climb into the highest European “basket”. Firstly, the gap is too large, secondly, the average performance at the World Cup is unlikely to bring many new points, and, thirdly, the European Championship 2011 will drop out of the ranking based on the tournaments of the last eight years, where our team showed a completely different result by taking bronze medals.
Thus, in the qualifying six, we will surely get two European teams and a couple of potential outsiders, no matter where. With the last, fifth rival, options are possible, but the Russian team must go to the qualifying playoffs (for this you just need not take the last place in the group). This means that everyone will decide the last two matches, for the relegation. Only after winning both, you get to Tokyo.
Let’s recap. The first conclusion: I really would not want to cross paths with Serbia or Lithuania. The probability here is 50/50, exactly half.
The second point: it would be nice to compete for the right to take their quarter of qualification in Russia. The support of the stands is never superfluous, and it’s easier to prepare for a home tournament. Although I think there will be enough people who want to get this bonus.
Well, the third, most important thing: to collect the optimal or close to that composition. So as not to pray for newcomers from the first division, as just in China. Then there will be no need to fear opponents of the caliber of Poland, and the chance to go to the Olympics after the four-match June blitzkrieg will become quite real.
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About the future, 5G, self-driving cars and the departure of programmers
Igor Gorkov, Nexign CEO
Our company Nexign has been making billing systems for 30 years. What it is? If it is quite simple, then they keep balances of mobile operators’ clients, send bills for services, determine the price of calls, traffic, and so on. Operators always need new services and products, and we help IT systems implement them. In 1992, we were called «Peter-Service» and developed the first billing system in Russia for the country’s first cellular operator, Delta Telecom. In 2022, Nexign does business in 14 countries, we have 9offices from Latin America to the Far East, 1800 employees and 120 projects in the portfolio: our solutions are used (and spoken!) in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Cyprus and the Dominican Republic. Billing systems are complex, hundreds of people build them for decades, so 120 cases in 30 years is an excellent statistic.
How to successfully do business in such a turbulent area as IT for 30 years? I myself ask this question. I don’t want to attribute this to chance, so I believe that in many respects the matter is that we are concentrating on one area. Therefore, professionals, those who are sincerely passionate about it, work for us, and there is a kind of sublimation of people, their talents and minds. This creates a team and a mood that cements it. And so that this load does not pull back, you need to change all the time. Such is the paradox: the key to success is constancy and change. A healthy balance is needed between them, and this is only a path of trial and error.
It is hardly possible to write down a plan for how the company will survive for 30 or 100 years. I worked at Nexign for 20 years, but not in a row, but in total, because I left several times — this is the question of the longevity of plans. Why did you return? Because Nexign knows how to motivate. Designer Artemy Lebedev has a poster: “How to motivate yourself to do something? No way, stay (at the bottom). (Laughs.) If an organization does not strive to be attractive, no one will come to it.
How the programmer market is developing
Competing in our market has always been difficult. In 2019, Nexign hired 1,000 people, and I remember saying that if you have to build rooftop pools for them, no problem. We didn’t have to, but we have our own view terrace in the Smolensky business center. A cool office has been a must-have for a long time, in covid we paid extra for equipping a workplace at home. The compensation package gives the employee the opportunity to spend money on what the company thinks is right. But in fact, many would prefer to receive it with money. We have a «cafeteria» — the amount that you can pay for a pool, fitness or vacation. But not an iPhone: I think buying it is not something that needs the help of an employer. Once a quarter, we have an all hands meeting, a gathering of units. I talk about strategic things, then the management team, then we answer questions. Guess what they ask the most? When will it be possible to spend the “cafeteria” on an iPhone! (Laughs.)
There is not enough staff in the IT market, and this will not change in the near future. Especially in Russia, because training here is not like, say, in India, where universities graduate programmers by the millions. It also works for us that demand has grown much faster than supply in recent years, as the real sector of the economy has gone towards the digitalization of business — finance, trade, everything for which IT is a service industry.
If we talk about trends, the market has changed a lot with the remote. Companies have realized that they do not care where the employee is located, and began to hire globally, at least within the country. As a result, salaries have evened out: a pro from Moscow can go to Saratov, in the wilderness, and receive comparable money.
What is happening with the IT industry now
If you look at recent history, there is a redistribution of programmers as such. Some are leaving: many companies in Russia have worked for Western contractors, and some of them are asking for people to be physically relocated from a region that they feel is wrong. They themselves leave for ideological reasons, but this is not of a massive nature, the scale of the flight of minds is exaggerated: in my opinion, we are talking about insignificant figures of 1%. It is important that globally the focus with IT will slide a little. Still, this is the icing on the cake of economic industries, and if there is not enough wheat on the planet, then there will simply be nowhere to put it. This is, of course, in the apocalyptic scenario, but, unfortunately, this cannot be ruled out.
More IT services are leaving Russia than programmers, but here again the issue of globalization: an international service is needed when there is freedom of movement. Local services to replace some Airbnb will appear quickly — they are not so difficult to make. Maybe just the current situation will spur their development. After all, they have learned how to make cheese in the country: yes, now only soft ones, but one day it will turn out to be aged parmesan — time is running out. (Laughs.) If not the cheeses themselves yet, then the industry will ripen to them.
Our relationships with overseas customers have become more difficult, not for political reasons, but because of payment difficulties. And new contracts will not be easy to get, but, fortunately, current customers are satisfied. If products have been implemented and maintained for 10 years, it is unlikely that today’s changes will force them to be abandoned. In addition, our target market is the Middle East, Africa, the CIS; we don’t see a cancellation culture there. There are problems with contractors from America and Europe, many are terminating contracts, which means we will get out. I don’t think there’s a disaster ahead. I prefer to think positively that it will only get better in the future — although not soon. Life doesn’t get easier every year. Before the New Year, at those very All Hands camps, I like to say to the employees: so, every year you think — this one was so hard, the next one will definitely be easier. And a year later, everything repeats. But since the collapse happened, it means that something else will become easier. That’s the only way I think it can be treated.
How to predict the future
Billing systems, as I said, are very large and heavy, they are created for a long time, hundreds of people work on them, hundreds more support them. And the magic (and that means market success!) is to make them flexible for tariff plans, offers and products that will someday be available from cellular operators. Conventionally, you introduce billing, when subscribers transmit the maximum to each other — a ringtone and a picture from brackets, and in 10 years gigabytes of memes will fly between them. And your system must anticipate this in advance! To do this, firstly, it is necessary to lay down the mechanisms of flexibility themselves, and secondly, to look for what’s new on the market, to think about what else will happen. As the science fiction writer William Gibson said, the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed. You need to find where the future has come to the surface, understand whether it is, and put it into your decisions.
Need a specific example? Please. In 1992, we were the first to make billing between the operator and the subscriber. And already in 1997, they became the pioneers of interconnect billing, a system for mutual settlements between networks: it is needed, for example, when a call from a mobile goes to the city telephone network. The system has become a standard in the CIS market and is used by almost all operators. In 1999, they thought that roaming would grow rapidly, and were the first to come up with a separate system for it. It didn’t even have to be advertised: an employee went to a telecom conference in Europe, shared his experience, and three months later we were already implementing it in Romania. Now such systems are the norm. It is possible to predict the future: after all, predictability is not a talent, but a good eye. Plus, it’s a matter of chance — in the sense that in order to find something, you have to look for something. Three products took off, but how many did not! It is necessary to try new things all the time, even if unpromising developments will have to be cut off. With developments, as with repairs: they cannot be completed, you can simply stop.
Now I see the future in 5G. This is not only fast Internet for the subscriber: from the fact that he will be able to download movies faster, in general, nothing will change. 5G is more about low latency, that is, about a faster connection. For example, for an unmanned vehicle on the road, it is important not how many gigabytes can be downloaded, but that the sent signal reaches not in 2 seconds, but in fractions, even in a few microseconds. That’s what 5G provides. And here a range of possibilities opens up that no one yet understands. Drones, drones that deliver packages — all this can come to life with the development of 5G.
It is interesting to follow the blockchain — it is something like an anonymous data network distributed among all users. Thanks to the blockchain, there is a cryptocurrency market, but whether it will reach each threshold will depend on whether they come up with a case that is interesting for everyone. While not everyone transfers bitcoins back and forth every day, the time of the blockchain has not come. But when the need arises, it will come. Moreover, the blockchain ensures the anonymity of personal data, and this is a very sensitive topic. Globally, the conflict between privacy and convenience, it seems to me, will be long. No one wants information about what he ate for dinner to appear on the Web. But it’s great when you come to the hairdresser, and the barber already knows how to cut your hair. However, should any hairdresser know how to cut your hair, or only a specific one? Probably, if a specific one is good, if everything is not very good. And if not all, but 10 will know — is it good or bad? The edge is wobbly. Compromise can be sought forever: everyone defines this boundary in their own way. Maybe someone has been cut so chic that he wants his hairdresser, as the architect of St. Basil’s Cathedral, to gouge out his eyes so that he cannot repeat this masterpiece.
Why books determine consciousness
From the point of view of predictions, the brilliant author is Nikolai Nosov. The book Dunno in the Sunny City was published in 1958, and there were already vacuum cleaners that themselves crawled around the room, flat-screen TVs on the walls, cars without a driver. If we talk about science fiction in general, then I love the Strugatskys, Clifford Simak, Robert Sheckley, from fairy tale fantasy — Max Fry. Fiction gives the author the opportunity to come up with a context in which he can play out the psychological or plot drama in the best way. It is difficult to put people in front of a difficult choice when they go to work from the Vasileostrovskaya metro station — not like in a magical city. This is brilliantly realized by the Strugatskys: their world did not differ much from what was outside the window in their time, but by changing a few variables, they created universes that allowed telling stories that were topical then and now.
Not only fantasy: in books I am omnivorous — I read historical and scientific literature. I go to the store, open any publication: if, after reading half a page, I want to continue, I take it. I can go to the «Akademkniga» on Liteiny and buy a book in a completely incomprehensible language for me. You look at the imprint, and she has a circulation of 200 copies. I am fascinated by the very fact that people tried, typed — after all, this is not even a typographic font, printed, bound — and all for the sake of 200 pieces!? How can you not buy it after that? Yes, I am the person who has two problems: there is nothing to read and nowhere to put books, at home I have a corridor of eight cabinets.
Typography seems like an absolutely brilliant invention: it puts everything in its place. I have an English textbook on physics from the 1860s, it has been perfectly preserved. Our generation seems to us ahead of the rest, and you open this textbook and see there what you were taught in the first year of the institute in the 21st century. The same laws and integrals: this makes you look at time differently. In primary sources you find things that otherwise do not appear. Once I was holding a guide to St. Petersburg in my hands 1901 years. There was a schedule of trains between Moscow and St. Petersburg: imagine, they ran the same 7 hours as today! Or you look at the first edition of War and Peace, and half of it is in French: wow, our compatriots really spoke it fluently a couple of centuries ago. We now perceive information through the lens of the Internet, but the fact written in Wikipedia is actually only someone’s opinion about it. And in the primary sources of books you see information in its original form. I like to keep old, original editions, but I’m fine with reprints. In books, text is more important to me. Perhaps because programmers also write texts, just in a different language. It’s weird, more structured, but it’s all about text anyway.
What Elbrus and Aikido have in common
Books are not my only crash: I have been doing aikido for over 30 years, I go to training at least 2 times a week. For me, this is about the path, overcoming: what you knew yesterday, today will seem different to you, tomorrow — the third, such an eternal development. It is important to be in harmony with the universe, then it cannot harm you. For unity and overcoming it is still cool to go to the mountains — my new hobby. About three years ago I saw photographs of Nepal, and I really wanted to go there. Gathered friends, left, and it turned out that the mountains are even more beautiful than in the photo. There is little oxygen at the top, and the body is arranged very wisely.