Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto presented his second State of Union earlier this week. Despite the tradition to address Federal Congress at the Palacio Legislativo de San Lázaro, Peña Nieto’s statement took place at the Palacio Nacional in front of almost 1000 guests, including 400 media representatives.
The expectation was for Peña Nieto to praise his government and the Federal Congress for achieving the so awaited structural reforms and especially to highlight the political collaboration of all major forces in both chambers thanks to the famous Pacto por México. For the first time the President of Mexico was welcomed and accompanied by the president of the Senate (Senator Miguel Barbosa) and the president of the Chamber of deputies (Silvano Aureoles MP), who are both from a major opposition party, PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática). Yet Peña Nieto chose to underline the future projects that his administration will undertake.
The first one is the construction of a new international airport in Mexico City, which will be located not far from the current one. It will have six air strips with annual capacity for 120 million passengers, becoming one of the largest airports in the world. In the voice of Peña Nieto the new airport will become a ‘landmark of modern Mexico’. The second project is to extend Mexico City’s public transport system. The expansion of four metro lines represents 43.5 kilometers more of network and 20% of additional capacity.
And finally, the transformation of the social program Oportunidades into PROSPERA.* This new face of social assistance will maintain the current support provided by Oportunidades but will also offer further coverage for vulnerable social sectors. PROSPERA seeks to create alternatives to incorporate citizens into economic activities and at the same time will enhance the government’s poverty alleviation efforts.
While previous versions of PROSPERA had been quite successful in attacking poverty in the country, inequality is still quite pronounced. Once beneficiaries reached a set level of wellbeing they lost certain entitlements to social support and slipped down back. PROSPERA will try to address this withdraw by supporting the incorporation of vulnerable populations into the productive activity. Some of the main measures of this program are financial inclusion, tertiary training, rural development and especial attention for indigenous populations,
It seems that Peña Nieto has been able to create a political consensus around his initiatives. Although the reforms have been approved and as EPN mentioned “reforming is transforming… the reforms were easy, but transformation must follow its course…” Implementation and the long term outcomes are the difficult part, which are still to come. But beyond the support of the political class, does Peña Nieto have the support of the population? Recent polls show that more than half of the population disagrees with EPN’s administration.
EPN and his government appear to realise the changes of Mexico’s socio-economic landscape and intend to address the increasing demands of the population. On the one hand, PROSPERA targets lower and rural classes and on the other hand the infrastructure projects target urban middle classes. Some political experts believe that this is only part of an electoral strategy to gain support for next year’s middle-term election from growing middle-classes living in the capital of the country. Mexico City is in fact PRD’s main political bastion and it turns out that PRD has two serious contenders to the 2018 presidential election, Marcelo Ebrard and Miguel Mancera, the former and the current governors of Mexico City….
Whatever the reading of the second State of the Union is, “Mexico is in movement” as the President himself mentioned on his speech. The issue now is how to maintain the pace and to ensure that both the Mexican government and the society keep up with the transformation that has started…
* This social program was created in the late 1980s by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari under the name of Solidaridad. Then it was change to Pogresa by President Ernesto Zedillo and finally into Oportunidades under PAN governments. .