Government: What for?

Luis Rubio

Things are not going well for the government and not even the daily morning “press conference” – or all its sarcastic rhetoric- can hide it. The economic situation deteriorates systematically and there is no reason to expect it to improve under current conditions. The events of Culiacan show not only a tragic setting, but a setback on already exacerbated levels, if not uncontrollable, of violence. Corruption is not diminishing because its causes are not being attacked, while those close to the government remain untouched, despite their flagrant corruption. Regardless of the evidence, the president is still bent on pursuing a path that, while still bearing some political fruits, runs counter to advancing his own agenda.

The evidence is overwhelming. The economy is not growing and, in the absence of productive investment, a contraction may well be in the offing, all while the country’s main engine of growth, exports, remains strong. That is to say, the cause of the poor economic performance is internal and it is evidenced by the growing trade surplus, product not of an exceptional increase of exports, but by the contraction of imports, especially those that are key indicators of future growth: machinery and equipment.

It is not necessary to talk much of security when, in the same week that the government announced, without any evidence, that Mexico is facing a “turning point,” the most violent moment so far in the current presidential term took place: a brutal defeat not only for the security project that the president has been celebrating so hard, but for the whole society that, suddenly, saw itself in the mirror of Culiacan. The president does not want to see that a bad strategy (or, more exactly, lack of strategy and intelligence) will have inexorable consequences: Could it be another type of turning point?

Corruption continues as usual: every day there is more evidence that as soon as they arrived at the government, the members of Morena, as it happened to the PAN before, they began to behave like their predecessors, ending up being indistinguishable. At the local level, this is everyday life. At the federal level, the way in which social programs are being managed without operating rules; direct allocation of contracts, public works and acquisitions without open and transparent tender processes; and the permissiveness with which illegality and the informal economy are being promoted in communities such as La Ventosa, Las Margaritas and the rest of the country, all due to obvious political-electoral conveniences, are evidence of flagrant corruption in the heart of the ruling project.

The big question is what is the government for. If a government does not care for security and safety of the population and does not create conditions for the economy to grow and the people to prosper, its very existence becomes irrelevant. In both areas -security and growth-, the results to date are negative. Worse when one looks at what the government has been doing in its first year, the “honeymoon” period, in which the president has had all the latitude to build the scaffolding of a new development project that yields benefits throughout the rest of its term. More than advancing investment projects with great multiplier effect and developing the political and legal structures to solve the security problems that seriously afflict the country, or to eliminate the causes of corruption, it has dedicated all its efforts to frighten the actors that are key to maintaining social peace and accelerating investment, and has built a white elephant in the form of the National Guard which, as evidenced in Culiacan, is not endowed with the vision and conditions to achieve its mission.

We have a government guided more by hatred and resentment than by a willingness to read the reality of the country and today’s world. Anchored in the idyllic era of the sixties that, as much as it may try, can never be recreated, the government has wasted crucial months on an agenda that will not impact on better conditions for the development of the country nor will it solve the themes that, at less rhetorically, are the essence of its agenda -corruption, growth, poverty and inequality- those that, I concur, are the central issues of Mexico. The problem is that, to effectively advance an agenda, there must be the willingness to undertake a comprehensive and dispassionate diagnosis of the current circumstances. But this government is anything but dispassionate and has no disposition to see the whole: its politico-ideological imperatives blind it.

Robert Hanlon, author of a book on Murphy’s famous law, says “never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence.” I wonder if what we have experienced in this last year does not prove otherwise: it is easy to attribute to incompetence what is the product of malice. The government project is based on a series of premises that have proven to be wrong, one by one. If one adds to that the extremely diverse agendas that emanate from the various contingents of the ruling party Morena, the end result is a strategy that is incompatible with the country’s progress.

I don’t know if it’s incompetence or malice, but what I’m sure of is that there is deep ignorance and unwillingness to learn and recognize when things go wrong. It is not difficult to understand why Mexico is in a hole; but what is incomprehensible is that the government keeps digging.