Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Mexico Turns a Corner

MEXICO CITY – Years of political squabbling and divided governments weakened state institutions in Mexico, greatly hampering their ability to meet their basic obligations to the country’s citizens: to foster economic growth, to create well-paying jobs, to provide quality education and social services, and to guarantee public safety. But that has begun to change, thanks to a political innovation that has united Mexico’s political leaders around a shared reform agenda.

In 2012, I campaigned for the presidency on a promise to transform Mexico into a more modern, dynamic, and competitive country, one that could compete and succeed in the twenty-first century. In order to achieve this, I proposed major structural reforms. Soon after a majority of Mexico’s voters backed my candidacy at the ballot box, my team met with the leaders of the country’s three main political forces to define a common reform agenda and a collaborative framework to realize it. The result was a political agreement on a clear and comprehensive action plan consisting of 95 points, now known as the “Pact for Mexico.”

Among the Pact’s provisions are major structural reforms that all parties agreed to support at the outset of the current administration. A package of education reforms, which Congress has already approved, will improve the quality of teaching and the formation of human capital throughout the country. Teachers will be assessed, schools will be managed with greater autonomy, and a commitment to academic excellence will become the backbone of the public education system.

Equally important, telecommunications reforms will expand coverage, lower consumer prices, and improve the quality of services. By allowing more open markets and leveling the playing field, we seek to increase productivity and ensure that companies operating in Mexico have access to strategic inputs.

As for financial reform, the Chamber of Deputies has already approved legislation (soon to be taken up by the Senate) that promises to foster economic growth and enhance financial inclusion. By enabling financial institutions to grant more loans at more favorable rates, small and medium-sized businesses will have the means to grow and prosper.

Finally, the tax reform that Congress recently approved will guarantee sound public finances and promote growth by increasing public investment in infrastructure, education, research and development, and welfare services (including universal pension and unemployment insurance).

And yet, while the Pact for Mexico has led to important legislative developments, some key items on the agenda are still pending. The most important of these items – energy and political reforms – are currently under consideration in Congress.

We recognize that many people are eagerly awaiting energy-sector reform in particular to begin. Indeed, reform in this sector of the economy is both desirable and necessary. Today, it is neither technically nor economically feasible for Mexico to take full advantage of its energy resources without legislative changes. Energy-sector reform is crucial if we want to strengthen energy security and increase our economy’s productivity. Our new legislation, recently passed, allows for more private investment in the energy sector, while guaranteeing that Mexico maintains the property rights over its vast natural resources.

I firmly believe that with the implementation of these structural reforms, Mexicans will be able to resolve the country’s most pressing problems and build a more prosperous, inclusive, and productive country.

The Pact for Mexico has already taught us the important lesson that national priorities and partisan loyalties are not mutually exclusive. Broad agreement on a bold reform package is possible. To be sure, as is true in any other democracy, elections will continue to be highly competitive; but, despite our differences, the vast majority of Mexicans – regardless of their partisan loyalties – share an overriding desire to build a better future for Mexico. I hope other countries that struggle regularly with political paralysis can find similar roads to reform.

Read more from "2013: Reversing Gears" here, or on Kindle and iBooks.

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