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Viewing cable 06MEXICO2220, TEN ECONOMIC CHALLENGES FACING MEXICO'S NEXT PRESIDENT 

REFTELS: AS NOTED IN TEXT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MEXICO2220 2006-04-26 19:07 2011-02-14 12:12 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Mexico
Appears in these articles:
http://wikileaks.jornada.com.mx/notas/situacion-economica-de-mexico-como-parte-de-la-agenda-de-seguridad-de-eu
VZCZCXRO5871
RR RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #2220/01 1161946
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261946Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0524
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0337
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 2214
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 08 MEXICO 002220 



SIPDIS 



SENSITIVE 

SIPDIS 



STATE FOR WHA/MEX, WHA/EPSC 

STATE PASS USAID FOR LAC:MARK CARRATO 

TREASURY FOR IA MEXICO DESK: JASPER HOEK 

COMMERCE FOR ITA/MAC/NAFTA: ANDREW RUDMAN 

ENERGY FOR KATHY DEUTSCH 
PARIS FOR USOECD 



E.O. 12958: N/A 

TAGS: ECON EFIN EINV PGOV PINR MX

SUBJECT: TEN ECONOMIC CHALLENGES FACING MEXICO'S NEXT PRESIDENT 

REFTELS: AS NOTED IN TEXT 



------------------------ 

SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION 

------------------------ 



1. (SBU) Whoever wins Mexico's presidential election on July 2 
WILL inherit both the economic strengths built and bolstered 
during the Fox Administration and the daunting challenges that Fox 
leaves unfulfilled or simply unaddressed. Fox's major economic 
legacy will be the macroeconomic stability that prevailed during 
his six-year term and the fruits this stability have borne: low 
inflation, a solid banking and financial sector, a middle-class 
housing boom, and the rapid expansion of credit to business and 
consumers. But as positive as this legacy is - and despite 
efforts by Fox's economic team to "armor-plate" Mexico's economic 
institutions against the political pressures his successor will face - the challenges Fox leaves are formidable. This cable 
considers ten of them: 

-- Reform the Tax System and Maintain Fiscal Balance. 
-- Defuse the Pensions Time Bomb. 
-- Confront Declining Oil Reserves and Reform the Energy Sector. 
-- Take on the Unions without Shutting Down the Country. 
-- Plan for a Transition to Fully Open Agricultural Trade. 
-- Stop Talking about Competitiveness and Do Something About It. 
-- Institutionalize the Rule Of Law And Confront the Violence. 
-- Cultivate Respect For Intellectual Property Rights. 
-- Invest in Human Capital Needed For a Knowledge-Based Economy. 
-- Address Mexico's Persistent Poverty. 



2. (SBU) Any future Mexican government faces the challenge of 
creating sufficient economic growth. The conventional wisdom is 
that Mexico needs to at least match the growth rates of its most 
competitive peers - 6% to 8% annual growth on a sustained basis - 
in order to create enough employment to lift millions of its 
citizens from poverty and provide an attractive alternative to 
illegal migration to the U.S. Mexico is unlikely to achieve this 
without substantial investments in key sectors including energy, 
telecommunications, infrastructure, and education. Furthermore, a 
lack of public security, corruption, and outdated bureaucratic and 
regulatory structures combine to hinder Mexico's global 
competitiveness and sap economic vitality. 



--------------------------------- 

MACROECONOMIC STABILITY UNDER FOX 

--------------------------------- 



3. (SBU) Mexico's next president will inherit a stable, growing 
economy (Mexico 1070, 161). The Mexican economy, which is tightly 
linked to U.S. economic cycles, rebounded from near zero growth in 
the first years of this decade to 4.4% growth in 2004 and 3.0% in 
2005. Forecasts are for continued growth of 3% to 4% growth 
in 2006 and 2007. Inflation has been controlled and is expected 
to remain in the current 3% to 4% range (Mexico 106, 05 Mexico 
3721). Thanks to increased appetite for emerging market debt in 
general and a perception of political, economic, and institutional 
stability in Mexico, international investors seeking higher yields 
embraced Mexican bonds. 



4. (SBU) Boosted by record high oil prices, public finances have 
steadily improved under Fox, with the broad measure of the budget 
deficit (which includes the parastatal companies and other off- 
budget items) at just 1.4% of GDP. International reserves, thanks 
to oil exports, spectacular growth in remittances (Mexico 443, 
2042, 2097, 2123, 2154, 05 Mexico 4186), and a healthy tourism 
sector (05 Mexico 3385), have grown to nearly USD 70 billion. 



5. (SBU) An able cadre of leaders at the Finance Ministry 
(Hacienda) has taken advantage of the favorable environment to pay 
down Mexico's foreign debt by borrowing on the domestic market, 
which has grown in depth and sophistication. Total net public 
debt stands at just 38% of GDP, of which foreign debt is just over 
12% of GDP. To smooth any ripples created by the upcoming 
presidential elections and subsequent transition, Hacienda has pre- 
financed all foreign debt payments due in 2006 and 2007 (05 Mexico 
5032). This favorable macroeconomic picture has kept the peso and 
investor confidence in Mexico stable. 


MEXICO 00002220 002 OF 008 




----------------------------- 

I. REFORM THE TAX SYSTEM AND 
MAINTAIN FISCAL BALANCE 
----------------------------- 



6. (SBU) One of Mexico's most pressing public policy problems is 
its fiscal system, which currently relies on oil-related revenues 
for 37% of the federal budget (05 Mexico 5998, 04 Mexico 9273). 
States and municipalities in turn rely on transfers, largely 
linked to oil-revenues, from the federal government for nearly all 
their revenues (05 Mexico 6865). Non-oil-related taxes, including 
individual and corporate income taxes and a value-added tax (VAT), 
accounted for less than 10% of GDP. This low tax base and an over- 
dependence on volatile oil revenues have hindered adequate long- 
term investments in education, health, and transportation 
infrastructure (05 Mexico 6966, 5852) and will limit the ability 
of Fox's successor to respond - responsibly - to the relentless 
demands he will face from his various constituencies. The next 
president will need to expand the tax take, especially from the 
middle class and the rich. 



7. (SBU) Due to a prohibition against private investment in the 
energy sector, the government must provide the tens of billions of 
dollars needed in energy investments in the coming decade. An 
inefficient state-controlled energy sector also eats away some 1% 
of GDP in annual electricity subsidies alone. Booming oil 
revenues have largely been squandered on subsidizing electricity, 
gasoline, and natural gas consumption (05 Mexico 5635). Luckily, 
oil revenues have been high enough to keep public finances healthy 
for the time being. However, the current system, which spends 
rather than saves excess oil revenues (05 Mexico 2460), will not 
withstand a major drop in oil prices without either drastic budget 
cuts or increased borrowing. Proposed fiscal reforms center on 
expanding the tax base by applying the VAT to food and medicine 
(currently not taxed), lowering taxes on the state-oil monopoly, 
Pemex, and improving state and municipal capacities to raise their 
own revenues (04 Mexico 6480). 



---------------------------------- 

II. DEFUSE THE PENSIONS TIME BOMB 

---------------------------------- 



8. (SBU) Perhaps the weakest point in Mexico's longer-term budget 
picture is a public pensions system with enormous and growing 
unfunded liabilities which each year consume a greater portion of 
the budget. The actuarial deficit (the money that would be 
required to fully fund) of Mexico's pension promises to government 
and parastatal workers is estimated at well over 100% of GDP (05 
Mexico 1804, 922). Mexico's government workers, workers at Pemex 
and the state-owned electricity companies, and employees of 
Mexico's Social Security Institute (IMSS) enjoy extremely generous 
pension benefits that can exceed 100% of final salary upon 
retirement. These benefits are almost entirely unfunded and 
payments to retirees now come out of annual budget appropriations. 



9. (SBU) Without meaningful reforms, successive administrations will see less and less money available for other public needs. A 
step was made in the right direction in 2004 when Congress 
mandated that IMSS, whose workers have Mexico's most generous 
pension system, could not hire new employees without fully funding 
their pensions (04 Mexico 6089). This reform, however, was 
thwarted by a new deal between the union and IMSS following the 
resignation of longtime IMSS director and union opponent Santiago 
Levy (Mexico 1655, 05 Mexico 6084). A reform to the government 
employees' pension system (ISSSTE), whose actuarial deficit is 
estimated at 45% of GDP, has languished (05 Mexico 184). A new 
president will have to find a way to move pension reform forward. 



------------------------------------- 

III. CONFRONT DECLINING OIL RESERVES 
AND REFORM THE ENERGY SECTOR 

------------------------------------- 



10. (SBU) Oil revenue accounts for about one third of the GOM 
budget. In December 2005 a leaked Pemex study revealed that 
production in Mexico's Cantarell oil field, the second largest on 
earth and representing 61 percent of Mexican oil production, would 
decline by as much as 75 percent by 2008 (Mexico 1174). While 
rejecting the report, Pemex executives tell us they are reasonably 

MEXICO 00002220 003 OF 008 


comfortable with their own projected decline rate of "less than ten percent per year" which they call "not trivial, but not 
catastrophic either." Pemex has several opportunities to make up 
production lost from Cantarell, but these are medium- and long- 
term projects that hinge on Pemex's ability to partner with 
foreign firms to bring the necessary expertise and billions of 
dollars of investment capital. Mexico's greatest potential lies 
in deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, but constitutional 
restrictions prevent Mexico from sharing ownership of the reserves 
with a foreign partner, a necessary condition for attracting 
outside participation. 



11. (SBU) Investments during Fox's term will likely permit Pemex 
to maintain production at relatively constant rates through 2010. 
After that, Mexico's situation will require legislative changes 
which would enable Pemex to maintain total production volumes near 
the current 3.3 MMBD level. Without these reforms, production 
will certainly fall. The only reforms now under discussion, 
however, are modest changes to Pemex's corporate structure that 
would allow the company to retain and invest a greater share of 
its earnings. Despite reports from all political parties of broad- 
based support for these changes (Mexico 1526), Congress will be 
unable to pass even a limited set of changes before it adjourns 
April 30. More fundamental changes to Mexico's constitution and 
laws prohibiting foreign investment in the sector are not even on 
the horizon right now. Discounting the possibility of a 
precipitous fall in Cantarell production, and assuming oil prices 
stay at least flat, Mexico's new leadership will still have to 
begin to confront needed reforms immediately upon taking office to 
permit the new developments needed to offset a significant medium- 
term fall in production. 



--------------------------------------------- ------------ 

IV. TAKE ON THE UNIONS WITHOUT SHUTTING DOWN THE COUNTRY 

--------------------------------------------- ------------ 



12. (SBU) Few major reform proposals will move forward without 
some confrontation or deal with the unions representing the 
affected industries. Unions gained power and influence over many 
decades of working closely with the PRI, delivering votes in 
exchange for unaffordable benefits for workers and untold riches 
for union leaders. Due to union protections, for example, the 
state-owned Mexico City electric utility (LyFC) has what is in 
effect its own construction and manufacturing subsidiaries with 
some 10,000 employees. LyFC retirees not only retire at full 
salary, but also receive the same annual union-negotiated raises 
that active employees receive. In addition to unions for government and parastatal employees - including the 1.2 million 
strong teachers union - powerful unions exist for 
telecommunications, transportation, and mining workers, among 
others. 



13. (SBU) When the PRI lost its absolute control over Mexican 
institutions, the PRI-controlled unions became juggernauts, and 
the threat of strikes in any of the major sectors they dominate is 
usually enough to force the government to back down on whatever 
reforms it may be contemplating. In 2004, for example, Congress 
passed a reform to the IMSS pension system in the face major 
marches and protests by IMSS employees that shut down parts of 
Mexico City for days - protests against a reform that only 
affected future employees. IMSS Chief Santiago Levy was forced to 
resign and a new contract was signed largely because the 300,000 
plus strong union threatened to shut down the country's public 
health system. While few would argue against the need for worker 
protections, Mexico's unions have become a force against needed 
reforms and in favor of economic stagnation. The economy is 
especially harmed because heavily-unionized sectors (e.g. oil and 
gas, telecommunications, electricity, health) are controlled by 
one or few entities whose workers can literally paralyze the 
country. Labor market rigidity may actually be one of the biggest 
obstacles to economic growth in Mexico. Without labor market 
reforms that would make it easier and less costly to hire and fire 
workers, and limit their extremely generous benefits and severance 
packages, investment and industrial growth here WILL be 
handicapped. 



---------------------------------- 

V. PLAN FOR A TRANSITION TO FULLY 
OPEN AGRICULTURAL TRADE 

MEXICO 00002220 004 OF 008 



---------------------------------- 



14. (SBU) Mexico's next President will face one of NAFTA's last 
remaining, and most emotionally charged, issues: the scheduled 
full opening of agricultural trade in 2008, when all agricultural 
tariffs and quotas between the three NAFTA members will be 
eliminated. Two of the most sensitive products in Mexico are corn 
and dried beans; considered by many to be part of Mexico's 
cultural patrimony and therefore deserving of special protection. 
In addition to this cultural argument, protection advocates point 
out that a substantial number of small farmers rely on these crops 
for their livelihood. According to 2003 data from the Secretariat 
of Agriculture, Mexico has over two million corn farmers, 85% of 
whom have less than five hectares, and 56% cultivate even less 
than two hectares. Although significant, there are far fewer bean 
farmers - 140,000 total, about half of whom have five hectares or 
less. 



15. (SBU) Some agricultural organizations have argued that a full 
opening of agricultural trade in 2008 would cause severe social 
upheavals, as large numbers of farmers are forced out of business 
and further impoverished. This has led to calls to renegotiate or 
delay open and free trade in agriculture. Lopez Obrador has made 
some public statements that call into question his support for the 
2008 opening and many observers doubt that PRD would follow 
through on the commitment if AMLO becomes president. The PRI has 
also suggested delaying measures that would open Mexican produced 
corn and beans to NAFTA competition. However, current Ministry of 
Economy officials and most politicians have stated that 
renegotiating NAFTA is not an option and that the opening must 
take place as scheduled. Many organizations appear realistic and 
determined, and have begun developing plans to deal with the 
transition and become more competitive by 2008. Others are simply 
counting on the disproportionate political clout of the farming 
sector to protect their inefficient industry and allow them to 
muddle through. Those involved in corn trade point out that most 
of these subsistence farmers are not really affected by the trade 
since only about one-third of domestic corn actually enters into 
the market, and Mexico is already exceeding their NAFTA quota for 
corn imports. Nevertheless, the emotional arguments have led to 
call to renegotiate. (Mexico 1839) 



--------------------------------------- 

VI. STOP TALKING ABOUT COMPETITIVENESS 
AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT 

--------------------------------------- 



16. (SBU) Mexico's waning international competitiveness as a 
destination for foreign direct investment has become an obsession 
among Mexican business leaders and politicians. There are no 
shortage of analyses, all of which point to badly needed reforms 
to Mexico's labor code, constitutional changes to allow foreign 
private participation in the energy sector, reforms to the fiscal 
regime, and greater respect for rule of law. But what has been 
lacking is the political will to take on extremely entrenched 
interests, particularly in an increasingly charged political 
environment. 



17. (SBU) While it is true that the combination of relatively low 
wages and proximity to the U.S. is an advantage that is difficult 
to match in India and China, particularly for production of heavy 
and bulky items such as automobiles and refrigerators, Mexico 
cannot rely on these industries if it expects to continue 
attracting high levels of foreign direct investment. (Mexico 203, 
206) One obstacle is Mexico's own domestic industries, many of 
them powerful monopolies that have grown fat and happy in an 
environment of bureaucratic inefficiencies that indirectly protect 
them from foreign competition. 



18. (SBU) Although Mexico last year appointed a widely respected 
official to head the Federal Competition Commission, they have 
thus far been unable to level the playing field for competition in 
areas where the major Mexican monopolies are dominant, including 
telephones, broadcasting, and cement. New investors are thus 
unable to offer competitive services and lower prices. Telmex, 
for example, continues to control 95 percent of the fixed line 
market and charges high prices for network access (Mexico 1123, 05 
Mexico 5375). Telmex fights attempts to increase competition in 
the sector, using court injunctions to delay or alter regulatory 

MEXICO 00002220 005 OF 008 


decisions that favor other companies. Telmex and the broadcasting 
giants Televisa and TV Azteca (Mexico 1080) can derail competition 
in the broadcast sector by playing off of politicians' nationalist 
rhetoric and old habits of protectionism. These practices have 
prevented Mexico from adopting new technologies and expanding 
networks. 



19. (SBU) The GOM's sale of government-owned airlines Mexicana and 
pending sale of AeroMexico is proof that increased competition has 
positive affects on the Mexican economy. With waning market share 
and ties with the government severed, Mexicana and AeroMexico are 
no longer able to protect themselves from competition. Easing of 
market restrictions and increased commercial opportunities enabled 
new airlines to emerge and compete with the public monopolies. 
The result: airline travel is becoming more affordable for the 
average Mexican and niche specialty markets are being developed, 
increasing employment opportunities and Mexico's client base. 



-------------------------------------- 

VII. INSTITUTIONALIZE THE RULE OF LAW 
AND CONFRONT THE VIOLENCE 

-------------------------------------- 



20. (SBU) When asked which single factor is the most troublesome 
for U.S. businesses operating in Mexico, the answer is invariably 
rule of law. Mexico's record on law enforcement, investigation, 
and prosecution is poor, and Federal and local police departments 
and judiciary are widely considered corrupt and ineffective. 
Although this has an effect on many aspects of life in Mexico, it 
has a particular impact on the business community. Without 
stronger respect for the rule of law, and greater competence, 
transparency, and reliability in Mexico's judiciary and law 
enforcement agencies, U.S. businesses must compete with local 
companies which have historically relied on political connections 
and bribery - and have often thrived doing so. Even those 
companies which are comfortable operating in such an environment 
waste hundreds of millions of dollars annually doing so, whether 
paying "fees" to have permits processed, settling lawsuits under 
egregious terms in order to keep their cases out of the court 
system, or fighting criminal procedures that often arise here 
against plaintiffs in civil suits. 



21. (SBU) Another aspect of rule of law is the effect of 
criminality and violence on businesses in Mexico. As one Mexican 
businessman stated, "violence is not the friend of investors," and 
indeed the Mexican Institute on Competitiveness published a report 
(Mexico 1536) which estimated that Mexico loses 15 percent of GDP, 
or USD 1.8 billion, annually due to crime. Although no business 
or association was WILLing to identify a specific investment that 
was lost due to the security situation in Mexico, they all 
acknowledge that it raises the cost of doing business here. 
Security costs have doubled over the last two years and companies, 
while not afraid to invest, note that they are fearful of losses 
from hijackings and threats of kidnappings directed at their 
executives. 



----------------------------------------- 

VIII. CULTIVATE RESPECT FOR INTELLECTUAL 
PROPERTY RIGHTS 
----------------------------------------- 



22. (SBU) Although Mexican government officials under the Fox 
Administration increased their dedication to protecting 
intellectual property, the scope and scale of IPR abuses across 
multiple industries continues to outpace their efforts. The 
International Intellectual Property Alliance estimates over $1.25 
billion in trade losses in 2005 for sound and video recordings, 
business and gaming software, and books. The textiles industry is 
also extremely hard hit by trademark piracy. There are an 
estimated 50,000 street vendors in Mexico selling pirated 
merchandise. 



23. (SBU) There is general agreement that Mexico has decent, 
though not perfect, IPR laws on its books. The challenge for the 
new administration is not legislative, but improved enforcement. 
Although PGR, IMPI and Aduanas annually seize and destroy millions 
of counterfeit and smuggled merchandise, there is little follow-on 
prosecution. IPR violators in Mexico are safe in the knowledge 
that although they may lose some merchandise to official raids, 

MEXICO 00002220 006 OF 008 


there is little chance that they will face jail time or monetary 
sanctions (Mexico 1522). Improved prosecution depends on two 
factors - agencies must improve their investigation and case- 
building techniques, and the Mexican judiciary must be willing to 
enforce the law. Unfortunately, judges and magistrates here have 
historically shown little understanding or appreciation for the 
importance of IPR protection and the ties between IPR piracy and 
other serious crimes (Mexico 969). 



24. (SBU) The stakes for Mexico are high if the situation does not 
improve. The Mexican Recording Industry Association estimates job 
loss for their industry alone at over 25,000 due to piracy. And, 
industry efforts to cut prices to compete with cheap pirated 
copies means they now have little profits to invest in launching 
new, home-grown talents. According to the Association president, 
the last time they launched a major Mexican artist was 8 years 
ago. Other industries face similar job losses and disincentives 
for innovation. 



------------------------------------------- 

IX. INVEST IN THE HUMAN CAPITAL NEEDED FOR 
A KNOWLEDGE-BASED ECONOMY 

------------------------------------------- 



25. (SBU) With over 100 million people and the 12th largest 
economy in the world, Mexico could be a major economic power. But 
Mexico lags badly in most socio-economic indicators (05 Mexico 
7288), including the vital area of education and technology. Some 
50% of Mexican adults over age 15 have had only a primary school 
education. Mexico's education spending per student at the primary 
and secondary levels is just 28% and 29%, respectively, of the 
OECD average. Relatively well-paid teachers are simply not 
delivering results. The percentage of Mexican 15 year-olds 
reading at the two highest levels of a standardized test is just 
6.9, compared to an OECD average of 31.8 and a U.S. figure of 
33.7. This neglect of education and a general lack of 
entrepreneurial spirit, perhaps quashed by decades of corrupt PRI 
rule that promoted dependence on the state, have resulted in a big 
lag in technological innovation and adoption. This lag will 
handicap Mexico's prospects in an age of globalization where the 
creation and adoption of technology are keys to improved 
competitiveness. 



26. (SBU) Mexico's lack of global competitiveness, coupled with government bureaucracy, deters potential innovators, especially 
Mexicans, from setting up business in Mexico. Lengthy patent 
processes, a lack of markets for specific products, and a lack of 
venture capitalists willing to risk money on new companies with 
little or no-track record hinder the development of Mexico's high 
technology sectors. In addition, most businesses and citizens 
have little access to more common technological tools like the 
internet and they lack the knowledge of how to efficiently utilize 
them. 



27. (SBU) OECD statistics confirm the need for Mexico to nurture 
its technology sector. Mexico has just one-third the OECD average 
of internet users per 1,000 people, and just one-fifth the U.S. 
figure. Mexico has just 0.8 broadband internet subscribers per 
100 people vs. an OECD average of 10.1 and 24.9 in Korea, one of 
its global competitors. The International Telecommunications 
Union's "Digital Access Index" ranks Mexico 64th, well behind 
nearly all other OECD members. If modern economies depend and 
thrive on innovation, Mexico, judged by patent applications, is in 
trouble. With one-third the U.S. population, Mexico receives only 
one-fourteenth the number of patent applications as the U.S., and 
of those, only 4% are filed by Mexicans (05 Mexico 7316). In 
order for Mexico to increase access, utilization, and technology 
investment, it will have to find new ways to attract foreign 
investors and build global confidence in its technology and R D 
sectors. Streamlining the patent process, easing licensing 
regulations, and developing technology investment incentives would 
also boost output, lower costs, and increase access in the sector. 



---------------------------------------- 

X. ADDRESS MEXICO'S PERSISTENT POVERTY 
---------------------------------------- 



28. (SBU) For a country as rich in natural resources as Mexico, 
and with its physical proximity to the largest market in the 

MEXICO 00002220 007 OF 008 


world, Mexico's poverty is a persistent national shame. This is 
perhaps Mexico's greatest economic challenge, and not one that can 
be solved by simply tweaking one policy or another. To Fox's 
credit, the "Oportunidades" program has been recognized as one of 
the best government poverty reduction programs in Latin America 
(recently featured in the Economist). It is structured as an 
incentive program for families (in rural areas particularly) to 
keep kids in school and to make regular visits to the doctor. The 
incentives include support payments and a discount/coupon system 
for families to have access to lower cost staple foods. A World 
Bank study indicated the Oportunidades coverage of 4 million 
families (now covering more than 5 million of the poorest families 
living in rural areas) resulted in increased enrollment for both 
boys and girls in middle school. 



29. (SBU) Mexico's widespread poverty has nevertheless created the 
phenomenon of large numbers of migrants traveling legally or 
illegally in the U.S. to earn a living and support their family. 
This in turn has created a massive remittance flow to Mexico - 
largely to Mexico's poorest regions - that itself has created 
certain opportunities for economic development. The level of 
remittance income in 2005 grew by 17%, to $20 billion USD, and was 
up 27% in January 2006 (to $582 million USD) compared to January 
2005. Officially, remittances are equal to approximately 2.4% of 
national GDP, while unofficial sources claim a much higher total 
(some as high as 10%). Remittances may equal as much as 30% of 
the GDP of rural states such as Michoacan and in some rural 
agricultural communities, remittances are responsible for 60-70% 
of the total economic activity. 



30. (SBU) There are numerous organizations attempting to take 
advantage of the opportunity presented by the skyrocketing flow of 
remittance income, but they are inadequate to promote large-scale 
investment and capital-building. The government development bank, 
Bansefi, has been leading these efforts for the GOM; other 
organizations, including USAID, also have programs encouraging 
rural development by bringing residents into the formal financial 
system. Banks, which have traditionally shied away from offering 
services in rural areas, now claim to be reaching out to 
previously under serviced populations. However, in reality, most 
national banking chains are still avoiding communities of less 
than 25,000 inhabitants, where a majority of remittance recipients 
live. The next administration will face the challenge and 
opportunity of turning remittances - Mexico's second largest 
source of foreign exchange (after oil) - into a productive engine 
of economic growth and continuing the expansion - begun under Fox 
- of the financial sector into rural areas. 



----------------------- 

CONCLUSIONS AND COMMENT 

----------------------- 



31. (SBU) These are considerable challenges, and there is no 
reason to believe that any of the three major candidates will be 
able to confront all of them, or even many of them, in a concerted 
and effective way. These challenges are all interdependent. 
Increased competitiveness is dependent on lower energy, 
telecommunications, and transportation costs, as well as a better- 
educated workforce and greater use of technology. Energy reform 
is impossible without some form of fiscal reform that would 
replace lost oil-related budget revenues. Increased investments 
in education, health, and infrastructure are made much more 
possible by pension and fiscal reforms. Pension, energy, and 
regulatory reforms, are dependent on dealing with unions. It will 
be very difficult for future president to successfully link these 
various reforms into a comprehensive strategy for the next six 
years, but their interplay will be impossible to avoid. Hanging 
over all these challenges is one that is more intangible, though 
nevertheless critical: how not to squander the macroeconomic 
stability that has prevailed throughout the Fox years. The challenges facing Fox's successor will be difficult enough, and 
the pressures on him sufficiently daunting, without having to 
confront an environment of inflation, high interest rates, and 
stagnant growth. 



32. (SBU) Fundamentally, Mexico is a land of privilege (or lack 
thereof) rather than opportunity. Its political debates, as 
Mexican columnist Luis Rubio often points out, tend to be backward- 
rather than forward-looking. There is little awareness among the 

MEXICO 00002220 008 OF 008 


Mexican general public of how fast the world outside is changing, 
and how much Mexico needs to change just to avoid slipping further 
behind. The next president, even if genuinely reform-minded, and 
even if he has a working majority in the Congress, will only have 
enough political capital to try two or three major reforms. The 
protected special interests will ensure that those efforts will be 
difficult and drawn-out, and likely will lead to a scaling-back 
from the original level of ambition. But, as this message 
indicates, two or three major reforms will not be enough. The way 
out of the dilemma for Mexico is to undergo some sort of sweeping 
cultural transformation, leading to a strong national consensus in 
favor of policies leading to higher productivity and economic 
growth. The visionary leadership that might be capable of 
inducing such a transformation is not (so far) evident in the 
three major candidates currently running for president in Mexico. 
Such transformations have taken place in East Asia, but so far, 
not in Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America. We need to continue 
to push for growth-oriented policies here, through both bilateral 
and trilateral mechanisms. But the leadership to make them happen 
must be home-grown. 

GARZA