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López Obrador, center, chats with Slim, right, while signing a highway construction contract on Friday. Between them is Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat. López Obrador, center, chats with Slim, right, while signing a highway construction contract on Friday. Between them is Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat.

Forget 4% growth target, says Carlos Slim, urging focus on investment

Businessman expresses support for AMLO and suggests waiting a year before evaluating his performance

President López Obrador’s target of 4% growth during the government’s six-year term in office should be forgotten for 2019, according to billionaire businessman Carlos Slim.

However, in an interview with the newspaper Milenio, Slim said that he has confidence in and supports all of the government’s plans, and that the López Obrador administration cannot be blamed for insecurity problems because it inherited them from its predecessors.

The businessman described the president’s plans for the country as very ambitious, adding that as they are directed towards the development of the country they should be supported by all Mexicans.

Some of the plans will take longer to realize than others, Slim said, such as those aimed at boosting economic growth and reducing rates of violent crime.

Asked to offer an opinion about ratings agencies’ low expectations for the Mexican economy – Fitch reduced its growth forecast to 1.6% earlier this year and this month downgraded Mexico’s sovereign debt rating to one notch above junk status – Slim responded:

“I don’t know but we have to forget about growth [targets] in 2019, whether it’s 0.5%, 0.7% or 1.1% is insignificant. The important thing is for there to be a proposal for projects so that the national and international sector invests.

“The advantage is that international investors are interested in investing in Mexican infrastructure projects, the important thing is for there to be investment. If there is investment there is growth . . . if there isn’t [investment] there’s no economic activity, employment or growth.”

Slim, the majority owner and chairman of Grupo Carso, América Móvil and Telmex, said he supported the government’s plans for the south and southeast, which include the Maya Train project on the Yucatán peninsula, construction of a new oil refinery on the Tabasco coast and the establishment of a trade corridor across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

“I believe that it is attractive and even the responsibility of everyone for the southeast to grow, a lot [of money] should be invested in the southeast, economic standards in the southeast need to improve, we have to provide a lot of education and employment. They’re the two essential things, a society with knowledge has a lot of opportunities to grow,” he said.

With regard to insecurity, Slim said there is no “magic wand” to reduce the stubbornly high levels of violence but added that to make inroads, the nation’s young people need options that will lead them away from a life of crime.

“They need to have hope, employment, [opportunities] to study, to play sports. That’s essential so what we have to do it create jobs for young people so that those who don’t have anything to eat don’t have to be stealing and doing unfortunate things . . .” he said.

Slim also indicated his support for the government’s austerity measures and crusade against corruption, stating that it is something with which everyone is “fed up.”

“Excessive spending of the federal government and state governments along with corruption stops money getting to those who need it the most, it prevents it from being used for social programs in marginalized areas . . .” he said.

Finally, Mexico’s richest man said it was too soon to judge the government’s performance, suggesting that the president should be given at least a year in office before he is subjected to appraisal.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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