Priorities

Luis Rubio

It is not difficult to elucidate the problems confronting Mexico; the hard part is to identify suitable solutions and to create consensus for their implementation. The problems are in good measure ageless and known to all, but their causes, consequences and potential solutions are always controversial. That’s why the old notion that the country is over-diagnosed and that the solutions are all but obvious is a false one or at least absurd. If they were, Mexicans would not be mired in the bog as they are. Some of those problems are ancestral, others the product of the world’s accelerated evolution, but both call for solutions that Mexican politics has been incapable of providing.

In his presidential campaign, candidate López Obrador outlined the ancestral problems precisely: poverty, inequality, low growth, and corruption. One can add or qualify each of these, even if the list summarizes the problematic that is perceived as central for the development of the country, but they concern consequences, not causal factors. That is, now, in view of the coming campaign season, a discussion likely to deliver a relevant and viable program of government must focus on the roots of the problems that have been identified for effectively being able to exert a direct influence on them.

On the other hand, complicating the panorama, novel problems are found or, at least circumstances that alter the environment within which economic activity and societies interact. The globalization of economic activity -from which Mexico more than benefits through exports and, recently, through so-called nearshoring- renders it impossible (and counterproductive) to adopt unilateral economic measures, as would have happened a half-century ago. Factors such as organized crime -a transnational activity- require attention at the internal level, but no nation can thwart these on its own. The ubiquity of information and the universalization of access to it has recast all the vectors that characterized political life in the past.

The point is that ancestral problems require solutions that should consider and form part of a conception that includes the realities typifying today’s world. The attempt to abstract itself from the world as the government about to end has encouraged has proven to be fallacious and detrimental to development and, paradoxically, harmful for the poorest population and the one entertaining the greatest propensity for suffering from the ills that the President identified in his campaign.

The surprising aspect of the situation that Mexico is undergoing, like that of other nations, is not that it is difficult to spell out what should be done. The hard part, whatever the cause, has been to advance toward putting those solutions into effect. The answers are often in plain sight, although at first glance they do not seem plausible. Ronald Reagan delineated the dilemma with clairvoyance: “For many years now, we have been shushed like children and told there are no simple answers to the complex problems which are beyond our comprehension.   Well, the truth is, there are simple answers. They just are not easy ones.”

The tensions distinguishing the country do not take place merely by chance -many of these are the upshot of the deepening complexity currently depicting the planet and that manifests itself in the Ukraine, in the surge of artificial intelligence, cyberattacks, the potential for a Trump comeback- and disruptive politicians, especially in the context of an extreme institutional weakness,  above all in terms of the absence of effective counterweights, bringing forth a political, and now an electoral, panorama that has paralyzed the country.  This, paradoxically, also constitutes a great opportunity because even the most devout believers within the President’s camp know that progress is impossible without agreements on at least the most fundamental elements of human coexistence.

The management of the governmental budget throughout the current administration has been particularly pernicious for the growth of the economy. On deflecting resources that would have normally been dedicated to education and health, as well as to public investment, the government preferred to endow its favorite clienteles with cash transfers. As the comedian Andy Borowitz satirizes, “it would be nice to spend billions on schools and roads, but right now that money is needed for political ads.”

Electioneering periods make it impossible to build accords about and for the future, but these times are also propitious moments for exploring options and possibilities. The candidates’ proposals may or may not be viable, but they obligate the citizenry to think differently about the prevailing status quo. In this latter sense, they open the door to society for it to propose solutions and alternative ways of addressing existing issues to focus on problems, establishing the possibility of common moorings for future solutions.

One of the most frequent errors in political diagnoses lies in attributing to the leaderships responsibilities that are in fact structural problems, but that does not in turn exempt these leaders from the obligation to work -or to come up with proposals during the electoral period- that cite alternatives that permit overcoming the structural complexities.

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