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Twelve completed housing projects, containing a total of 2,113 dwellings units, are now being operated by the Authority. Rent collections in 1944–45 amounted to $126,727.84 with a vacancy and collection loss of only 0.42 per cent.
Social activities carried out in cooperation with various welfare organizations were continued from previous years. New activities include the establishment of day nurseries in two projects and an elementary school in one project; the organization of Agricultural Extension Service units in two projects; tenant associations in five projects; and baseball and softball teams in seven projects.
The work of the Industrial Commission was considerably lightened this year due to the final liquidation in 1943–44 of all claims that had been pending from the old Workmen's Compensation Trust Fund. A total of 1,505 cases were registered with the Commission during the year, and 154 pending cases were carried over from 1943–44. Decisions were rendered in 1,534 cases, leaving 125 pending on June 30, 1945. In addition, 188 cases were reconsidered and 851 public hearings were held. Twenty five cases were appealed to the Supreme Court. In 20 of these, the decisions of the Commission were upheld.
The Medical Advisor examined and reported on 1,104 cases, and rendered 60 reports in connection with workmen brought before the Commission by the medical division of the State Fund. He also took part in hundreds of public hearings.
The budget of the Industrial Commission for the fiscal year amounted to $75,499.89. Of the $60,098 alloted to salaries, only $56,802.91 was expended.
The Commission continued its practice of publishing in the daily press a brief summary of its most important decisions.
INSTITUTE OF TROPICAL AGRICULTURE During the third year of its existence, the Institute of Tropical Agriculture widened the scope of its investigations in plant physiology and started research in agrostology and economic geography. Research was continued in soil minerology and plant nutrition, and the field of mycology was extended to include a study of the fungus flora of the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries.
A small plant introduction service was organized during the year for the purpose of keeping a record of plants, introduced by the Institute. Several specimens were brought in from Barbados and Jamaica by the Director in the course of his trips on behalf of the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission.
The Plant Physiology Department continued research begun in the previous year on the hormone mechanism of tropical plants, and explored the practical possibilities of results obtained. The usefulness of hormones for selective sprays for weed extermination was demonstrated. The chemical used promises to become a successful herbicide for graminaceous crops such as sugar cane. Experimentation with plant propagation by means of cuttings dipped in a chemical solution instead of by seeds was continued with highly successful results. Crop control of pineapple production (relating to the time of flowering and the size of fruit) was perfected with the use of hormone treatments, and the method is already being utilized by pineapple growers on plantations adjacent to the Lajas experimental farm.
The Department of Economic Geography carried out field studies in Brazil, Bolivia and the Caucas Valley in Colombia. Data gathered on these expeditions is now being organized for publication. A progress report was submitted to the Planning Board by the committee which has been investigating the irrigation possibilities of the Lajas Valley in the southwestern part of the Island. This committee, composed of representatives of Insular and Federal agencies under the chairmanship of the Director of the Institute, was appointed in 1943–44 to make the survey.
The Department of Agrostology, organized in July 1944, started a project to determine the autoecology of various species of tropical grasses and their adaptation to different ecological zones, growth habits, etc. A detailed survey of all grasses native to Puerto Rico is being made. Exotic species introduced from other tropical countries are being grown in various study stations in different ecological zones of the Island for comparison with native species. One of these experimental planting stations has been established at the Isabela Sub-station and others are planned at Lajas, Coamo, Adjuntas and Río Piedras. More than 100 species of grasses have already been introduced in Puerto Rico from Venezuela, Curazao, St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.
INSURANCE The records of the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance show that the amount of insurance business carried on in Puerto Rico in the calendar year 1944 was exceeded only in the record-breaking year of 1942, when a total of $9,250,729.13 in premiums was collected.
Furthermore, the difference of $768,379.14 in premiums paid in 1942 and 1944 is not so significant when it is considered that the increase in 1942 was principally due to the increase in marine insurance rates while the increase in 1944 over 1943 was due to a greater volume of insurance written.
The volume of insurance premiums and losses paid for the calendar years 1943 and 1944 is shown below:
The business of life insurance continues to grow in the Island. The amount of new insurance written in 1944 was $15,957,226, as compared with $13,500,000 in 1943.
Fire insurance coverage was the highest since the years 1920 and 1921. Property values were insured in the amount of $281,247,916 with premium collections totalling $1,412,496.83. The premium income was the highest on record. Losses paid amounted to 17 per cent of the premiums received during the year.
Hurricane insurance had a record-breaking year attributable to the popular belief that a hurricane was over-due on the Island. The value of property insured was $53,983,020, and premium receipts increased by $182,009.62. Losses paid amounted to seven cent of premiums received.
A drastic reduction in the earthquake insurance rate caused a jump in the amount of insurance written from $28,123,240 in 1943 to $71,386,690 in 1944, with the premium income practically unchanged. Losses amounted to .003 per cent of the premiums paid.
Automobile fire, property damage and collision insurance increased 34 per cent over 1943 in premiums paid. Losses amounted to 19 per cent of the premium income.
Marine insurance written in 1944 surpassed all previous records. Property valued at $341,886,698 was insured with premium payments
totalling $1,713,202.33—an increase of 37 per cent over premiums paid in 1943. Losses were higher than in 1943 but were still less than seven per cent of the premiums paid.
The Puerto Rico Hospital Service Association, which started operating on January 1, 1944, had an unfortunate year financially. Membership premiums were fixed too low in proportion to the cost of hospital and medical services. Premium income amounted to $84,893.97 while hospital and medical service claims totalled $88,406.83 and operating expenses amounted to $25,654.01. Efforts are under way to put the Association on a self-supporting basis.
During the fiscal year 1944-45, 67 companies were authorized to transact insurance business in Puerto Rico. Forty five were organized under the laws of the United States, 13 under the laws of Great Britain and eight under the laws of Canada.
On June 30, 1945, deposits in trust for the protection of policy holders in Puerto Rico amounted to $1,974,000.
ISABELA IRRIGATION SERVICE
Three hydroelectric plants are now being operated by the Isabela Irrigation Service.
Production of energy in 1944-45 amounted to 8,498,440 kwh., an increase of 2,704,410 kwh. over that of the previous year. Total power generated and purchased totalled 11,604,755 kwh. Energy delivered came to 9,756,378 kwh., of which 3,034,200 kwh. were sold for $298,972.05.
A total of 60,105 acre-feet of water was diverted from the Guajataca Reservoir in order to meet the requirements for the production of electric energy. The run-off into the reservoir was 69,555 acrefeet, 9,450 acre-feet more than the draft.
Out of the total volume of water drawn from the reservoir, 4,845 acre-feet were delivered for irrigation purposes; 1,425 acre-feet were sold under direct orders; and 3,299 acre-feet went to municipal waterworks and for domestic and industrial use.
Funds contributed by the War Emergency Program helped to finance the lining of an additional 2,263 lineal feet of the main canal, reconstruction of the road to Plant No. 3 and the lining of the Moca Canal.
Soil investigations were continued in connection with the proposed extension of the irrigation and hydroelectric facilities in the municipalities of Hatillo, Camuy and Quebradillas.
In the course of the year, the Land Authority acquired 14,558.4 cuerdas * of land, of which the largest single parcel purchased was 5,704.7 cuerdas belonging to the Compañía Azucarera del Toa. As of June 30, 1945, the total amount of land bought by the Authority during the first three years of operation was 43,346.2 cuerdas, valued at $6,183,214.61. This represented an average value of $142.60 per cuerda.
Of the land distributed by the Authority during 1944-45, 1,658.1 cuerdas costing $199,740.52 were assigned as homestead plots to agregados (landless farm workers) under Title V of the Land Law, and 12,653 cuerdas, valued at $1,919,388.53, were made into proportional profit farms. Up to June 30, 1945, a total of 14,930.3 cuerdas had been distributed to agregado resettlers, about 27,222 cuerdas had been set aside for proportional profit farms and 1,194 had been used for the establishment of 89 individual farms.
The second year of operation of the six proportional profit farms already established on the Cambalache Project was even more successful than the first. In December 1944, the original parcel was augmented by the purchase of 500 acres. The net income for the crop year 1945, which ended on July 30, was $90,308.75 as compared with $69,232 in 1944. Of this profit, $11,643.77 will be distributed to the lessees, $69,388.84 to the laborers and the remainder reserved for contingencies.
Four new proportional profit farms were organized on the Toa Project. The net profit realized by these farms from the 1945 crop was $71,109.46, of which $10,666.45 will be distributed to lessees and $46,221.16 to laborers.
About 3,000 cuerdas of the Cambalache Project have been set aside for reforestation under the War Emergency Program. A total of 863 cuerdas was replanted to forest and fruit trees during the past year.
Continuing the agregado resettlement program, 37 new rural communities comprising 3,790 parcels were established during the year. At the end of the year, parcels of from one fourth to three cuerdas had been assigned to 13,103 agregados living in 101 communities. A total of 1,106 plots was set aside for the construction of schools, churches and other public services. In these communities, subsistence crops to the value of $477,619 were being cultivated at the close of the year and more than $240,000 worth of farm animals were owned by the agregados.
* One cuerda = 0.97 of an acre.