Mid-river

Forbes - Luis Rubio

Marie Curie, the Nobel Prize winning scientist, on a certain occasion affirmed that “one never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done”. That is, in a certain way, the curse of politicians: no matter what they do, and less so in this era of exacerbated expectations, what the population demands is what is lacking or what others already have. It’s about a circle that very easily turns vicious; thus, it’s much easier (in fact, inevitable) to act when there is a crisis while what’s typical, when things are going well, is to avoid running risks.

Crises oblige us to act simply because the deterioration is immediate, above all when these are currency exchange crises akin to those we underwent for some decades. Prices shot up within a matter of hours, interest rates soared, businesses fired personnel and consumers rushed to buy whatever possible before prices went up. For a government in this situation there are no two ways about it: act or act. The latter is not to say that its responses are always the most fitting; in the last half century (or more), Argentina has been the perfect example of a country that refuses to act, but its case is somewhat exceptional because it concerns a country whose population does not grow and the country has a food surplus. This combination has sanctioned all sorts of outrages and irresponsibilities.

Mexican governments have not had a similar option. When the crises arose, the government had to act. In a certain way, we Mexicans have been very privileged because of the fact that the governments that faced the financial crises of the 70s to the 90s did so directly and unceremoniously. Clearly, they had no alternative, but the fact is that on each occasion it was the technicians who took hold of the reins of the process, although afterward they had to relinquish them. And the problem lies in the latter: the country resolved its crises and, for nearly twenty years, has steered clear of another, but that does not mean to say that it has been able to erect an auspicious platform for the sustained growth of the economy, and even less so for the construction of a developed, civilized, and modern country.

The problem of Mexico problem is that it has stayed mid-river. It has carried out innumerable political reforms but we are far from achieving the consolidation of a political system in which the key actors –for example the parties- were satisfied and were to confer legitimacy upon the government without disputes and to an even lesser degree one in which the politicians were to respond to the citizen. In the economy there co-exist two contradictory worlds: one as successful and competitive as the orb’s finest, the other that can hardly be differentiated from the most backward third world nations. The judicial power is mired in a reform that is rejected by the greater part of those who are its main actors and apparently no one is willing to bring it to fruition. The country’s police, with few exceptions, are inadequate, to say the least, for the type of challenge that the country is facing in the field of criminality. In the social ambit, the country exhibits an inequality that makes it impossible to pretend that we are approaching the developed world.

My point in all this is not to say that everything is bad or that there hasn’t been progress, but that it is indispensible to recognize not only the size of the challenge, but above all its nature. Today’s nation scarcely resembles that of some decades ago: although we are far from having achieved development, today’s Mexico is not the poor country of yesteryear. Of course reforms are required that make accelerating the growth of the economy possible, but what’s most required is a vision of development that makes it feasible to marry the measures adopted today with the objectives to which we Mexicans aspire to achieve tomorrow. That is, the true challenge is not a reform here and there but of a clarity of vision –and of the leadership that is predisposed to usher in the process of making it a reality.

“One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done”

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