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Feet of lead, and without wings

10 January 2009

While the 25-point plan Felipe Calderon proposed for confronting the economic “Bush-fire” from scorching Mexico too badly, has its merits,  there is growing skepticism about the details.

Calderon’s plan — which calls for freezing gasoline and LP gas rates, some cut-backs in industrial electrical rates, tax credits for the purchase of new appliances and some social security and unemployment benefits (extending to six months from two the employer-madated IMSS payments for laid-off workers),  and federal infrastructure development — is “insufficient” according to Cardinal Norberto Rivera.

The Cardinal, speaking for the Church, complains that the plan does nothing to protect agriculture and fisheries, nor does it sufficently protect labor rights, salaries or benefits.

José Ángel Gurría, the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), complains that the plan falls woefully short of the need for job creation.

In Congress, both the PRI and PRD are complaining that the salario minimo will not keep up with inflation.  The two main parties of the left, also complain, as does influential financial writer Luis Miguel González in the right-of-center Milenio, that the plan fails to address long-term needs, or show any creativity when it comes to development.   The President’s proposal, González complains, says nothing about investments in new technology, the green economy or “intelligent infrastructure”… in other words, it’s roads and bridges, not bridges to the 21st century.  Unimaginative and only marginally effective, González called it a “monument with lead feet and no wings to soar”.

Personally, I’d hoped the billion-tree project might be included in the anti-crisis package… if nothing else, unemployed youth could be out working on reforestation projects.  And, energy conservation (and expansion) — as well as the need for more electrical power — is a great opportunity for building more solar and wind generation plants.  González ,  the left and the Church all note that just freezing gasoline prices is counter-productive (as I said it would be, just when Mexico has come to grips with the need to expand refinery production).

All do, however, see the irony in Calderon’s turn to populist solutions… the very “evil” he campaigned against when running for office.

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