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Column 032607 Vallarta

Monday, March 26, 2007

 

What Are The Most Serious Problems Mexico Faces?

 

By Dr. José Enrique Vallarta Rodríguez

 

In late February I attended a seminar on Mexico that featured a number of academic specialists on Latin American affairs.  And during one of the analysis sessions a scholar was asked what, in his opinion, are the most serious and urgent problems Mexico faces?

 

His response was simple: “The inequitable and unjust distribution of wealth, and [the need] to break with the history of bad guys (“chicos malos”¹) always winning in Mexico.”

 

The response was simple but true.  For example, one can look at the early March issue of Forbes magazine that lists the personal fortune of Mexican businessman Carlos Slim at US$49 billion, up US$19 billion from last year.  Slim is in third place on the billionaires list, after Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

 

The inequitable distribution of wealth in Mexico is evidenced by Slim’s fortune that has increased greatly since his acquisition of the government-owned national telephone system, Teléfonos de México, in 1990.  While a part of his money comes from growth and improved services, a significant amount is from his taking advantage of a lack of landline telephone tariff regulations in Mexico — and today Mexico’s telephone services are the most expensive in the world.

 

Certainly Slim has diversified into other areas of investment over the years, in Mexico and elsewhere, which besides increasing his fortune creates jobs and brings money to the nation.  But too, in recent times he has received considerable support and incentives from the Mexican government in order to increase his patrimony, which is incongruent with the below poverty level lives and marginalization 50 million Mexicans suffer.

 

Regarding the phrase “the chicos malos always win in Mexico,” the specialists were referring to the poor caliber of government officials we have had to suffer with throughout history.  And history shows us that the majority of those who have governed Mexico, with some honorable exceptions, can not only be characterized as inefficient and poor administrators, but too as corrupt and non-nationalists insofar as they have used their positions to enrich themselves, their families, and small groups of beneficiaries.  They have forsaken national interests and the Mexico people.

 

Today, President Felipe Calderón and his administration must take actions to compensate for the inequalities in wealth and income distribution in Mexico, while at the same time fighting corruption.  And perhaps some of the following proposals should be considered.

 

1.      Government incentives for businesspersons, industrialists and developers who invest in projects to fight poverty.

 

2.      Administrative and fiscal incentives for businesses and individuals who develop social, educational, scientific, and economic projects in order to support those who are most in need.

 

3.      State reforms modifying the current presidentialist system, making it into one that is semi-presidential.  The position of prime minister should be created, with that person being in charge of the government.  The president would carryout representative functions, and there should be an efficient and productive parliament that would give a balance to decision-making.

 

4.      Fiscal reforms are needed to increase the number of those who actually pay taxes, while authorizing national development and production incentives rather then just enacting authoritarian regulations and imposing arbitrary tax increases on those who already pay.  By doing so new businesses and jobs would be created.

 

5.      Judicial system reforms in order to fully guarantee the rule of law that too would do away with discretional treatment and abuse of power by authorities.

 

6.      A 50 percent reduction in the salaries of public servants in the three branches of government, with the money saved going to social programs.

 

7.      Establish incentives for private sector investments by Mexicans and foreigners that create jobs for Mexicans.

 

8.      Establish improved social compensation systems for the public and private sectors.

 

9.      Establish public policies for income redistribution as a means to strengthen social security, with unemployment insurance included.

 

10.  A strengthening at the constitutional level of transparency, and in the rendering of accounts by officials in the three branches of government.

 

11.  Political reforms, including fewer political parties; shorter campaign periods, with less money allocated; unified electoral calendars; free access to the media; a second runoff round in the presidential election; a referendum every two years; and a cut in the presidential terms from six to four years.  Reelection, for one additional term, should be allowed for the president, deputies and senators.

 

The 21st Century must be one of opportunities, success and prosperity for Mexicans, while doing away with chicos malos who always win.

 

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¹ Chicos malos: pejorative slang for government officials, politicians, “juniors” (political heirs), and/or patronage network recipients who, real or perceived, loot Mexicans of their national patrimony.

 

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José Enrique Vallarta Rodríguez, a MexiData.info guest columnist, received his doctorate in Mexican Electoral Law from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.  Mexico City-based, he has worked for the Federal Electoral Institute.  He can be reached via e-mail at vej_2006@yahoo.com.mx.

 

Translation MexiData.info