The federal government’s cessation of the “privatization trend” favored by previous administrations was hailed as a major achievement by President López Obrador in his third annual report to the nation on Wednesday.
In an almost hour-long address at the National Palace in Mexico City, the president also outlined a range of government achievements, many of which he previously highlighted in his first and second annual reports.
“The transformation [of Mexico] is in progress,” López Obrador declared at the start of his speech before asserting that there is a need to continue exposing “the great neoliberal farce” of previous governments and conceding that more needs to be done to “foster a change of mentality” among the nation’s citizens.
“… We’re banishing vices and dishonest practices in the management of government,” he said.
“A decisive measure was to stop the privatization trend in its tracks. We stopped delivering concessions to private companies in mines, water, hospitals, ports, railways, beaches, jails and public works. But the most important thing is that we’ve stopped privatization in the energy sector – in oil and electricity,” López Obrador said.
The government’s new energy policy aims to make the country self-sufficient in gasoline, he said, pointing to the modernization of Pemex’s six refineries, the construction of a new one on the Tabasco coast and the purchase of one in Texas.
“It’s worth remembering that a new refinery hasn’t been built in our country since the beginning of the neoliberal period 42 years ago. The last one [built] was that in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, which began operating in 1979,” AMLO said.
With regard to the electricity sector, the president said he would send a constitutional reform proposal to Congress this month that will allow “grave damage” caused by privatization to be repaired.
“… While the market … was opened up … to national and especially foreign private companies with the delivery of subsidies, among other privileges, the Federal Electricity Commission plants were completely abandoned,” he said.
“Now we’re modernizing the hydroelectric plants to reduce the use of fuel oil and coal in the production of electricity. Energy produced with water is clean and cheap,” he said.
López Obrador also highlighted the government’s infrastructure construction agenda, noting that it’s building numerous projects including highways, dams, hospitals, state-owned banks, universities, schools, water treatment plants, bridges, railroads, airports, military barracks, libraries and stadiums. All the projects are being built without entering into partnerships with private companies and without taking on debt, he said.
Just three large infrastructure projects – the new Mexico City airport, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec trade corridor and the Maya Train railroad – are creating more than 143,000 direct jobs and over 277,000 indirect ones, López Obrador said.
Among a wide range of other government initiatives, actions, achievements, policies and agreements exalted by the president were the new North American trade agreement; the creation of a northern border free zone; the national COVID-19 vaccination program; the reopening of schools 17 months after they closed at the onset of the pandemic; the stability of gasoline and electricity prices; welfare and social programs; the delivery of loans to small businesses during the pandemic; improved tax collection; the defense of human rights, including those of migrants; and the absence of conflict with foreign governments.
“There is social peace and governability in our country,” López Obrador said after asserting that stores haven’t been looted during the pandemic because “desperation due to hunger” has been avoided.
He also talked up the recovery of the Mexican economy, which the central bank predicts will grow 6.2% this year.
“The industrial sector is in clear recovery, so is retail, tourism, the restaurant sector, aviation and other services. Almost all forecasts agree that the economy will grow about 6% this year. Foreign investment in the first half [of 2021] was US $18.43 billion, 2.6% higher than in the same period of last year and the highest [level] in the history of the country,” AMLO said.
He touted “historic records” in a range of areas including remittances, foreign investment, the increase of the minimum wage, the stability of the peso, the value of the stock market and central bank reserves.
He noted that his government holds security cabinet meetings every weekday morning and declared that the “fruit of this joint work” is a reduction in the incidence of a range of crimes including fuel theft, homicides (still at near record levels), vehicle theft and kidnappings. However, the president conceded that femicide and extortion are among the offenses that have increased since he took office in December 2018.
It wouldn’t be an AMLO speech without a liberal dose of praise for the government’s corruption-fighting credentials – and, as expected, Wednesday’s address didn’t disappoint.
“From the first year of government we managed, among other measures, to eliminate the cancellation of taxes for large taxpayers [who were] beneficiaries of cronyism, and corruption was categorized in the constitution as a serious crime … in which the accused is not granted the possibility of obtaining bail,” the president said.
“… It’s demonstrable that not allowing corruption and impunity helps to free up funds for the wellbeing [of the Mexican people] and the development of the country. That’s the formula – don’t allow corruption, govern with austerity and don’t allow impunity: moralize the public life of Mexico.”
In the two years and nine months since taking office, the federal government has saved 1.4 trillion pesos (US $70 billion) due to austerity and the elimination of corruption in purchases and contracts, López Obrador said.
“… With this formula of combatting corruption and governing without luxuries or frivolities we’ve been able to meet our commitments to not put the country into debt, not raise taxes and not increase fuel prices,” he said.
“And the most important thing [is that the government’s] new economic policy, built on morality, has allowed us to finance social programs for the wellbeing of our people, especially for the poorest and most marginalized.”
The president, a tireless orator and avid traveler, also highlighted that he has held 685 morning press conferences since he was sworn in and visited every state of the country, some as many as 28 times.
“… It’s going well,” López Obrador said, referring to his almost three-year-old government.
“And I’m sure that at the end of March next year the people are going to vote in favor of me continuing my constitutional period [as president] until the end of September 2024. Of course this is not the only thing I need to fulfill my mission: what nature, science and the Creator say is also needed, we can’t be arrogant,” he said.
“But if I’m lucky and I finish [my term], I believe that we’re going to complete the job of transforming [Mexico] and we won’t leave anything outstanding. When I’m handing over the presidential sash I will only say … mission accomplished! I’m going to [my ranch in] Palenque, I leave you my heart.”
Mexico News Daily