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“Was it a good idea to ask López Obrador for advice?”, By Farid Kahhat

No, it is not a case of undue interference that the Government of Mexico advise your Peruvian counterpart on public policy at the request of the latter. The successful organization of the Lima 2019 Pan American Games is partly explained by the agreement signed by the governments of Peru and the United Kingdom for that purpose. And the Executive’s recent fiscal reform proposal was prepared with the collaboration of the International Monetary Fund.

But if we are to request the collaboration of the Mexican Government in matters of public policies, in general, and social policies, in particular, it would be worth evaluating what would be worth adopting from the Mexican experience and what not. Social policies, for example, seem to partly explain the high level of approval that the president maintains Andrés Manuel López Obrador. But one wonders whether, regardless of the immediate benefits of the transfers they imply, they will have positive long-term effects.

For example, the López Obrador government has raised the amount of public pensions (among other expenses), keeping the fiscal deficit and public debt under control: that could be an example to follow. But despite the immediate benefits of his other social programs, there are reasons to question their design and implementation. For example, some 330,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 29 will earn just over $ 200 a month for one year, on the condition that they attend training programs. The idea is that they can acquire an education for work without the risk of abandoning it due to economic deficiencies. The idea sounds good, but critics point out that there is not adequate monitoring of learned skills, as well as that their potential employers often demand payments to hire them.

In order to reforest lands that have suffered erosion, another program involves paying a similar sum to some 420,000 farmers for planting trees. Even people who share the aims of the program argue that there would also be design and monitoring problems here. On the one hand, some of the beneficiaries fell trees to obtain payment for planting new ones. On the other hand, in some cases species foreign to the region are planted, which bring other problems.

This is without mentioning an area in which the Mexican experience repeats some problems that we already know in Peru: the reform of public school education. As with the teachers ‘union associated with President Castillo, the main Mexican teachers’ union supported López Obrador when he excluded teacher evaluations from the reform of that education. In fact, in the Mexican case, the main teachers’ union influences teacher appointments without giving greater consideration to learning outcomes, studies, or experience as selection criteria.

Another area of ​​common interest in which the experience of the Mexican Government is not worth emulating is that of the COVID-19 pandemic. In keeping with Trump or Bolsonaro, López Obrador refused for a long time to adopt the specialists’ recommendations. For example, he declared that “the coronavirus thing, that you can’t hug, you have to hug, nothing happens.” Or he refused to wear the mask in public, claiming that he was following the recommendation of the Undersecretary of Health, Hugo López-Gatell (who, after being alluded to by the president, publicly stated otherwise).

It is not, therefore, a mere coincidence that, under the three presidents in question, the surplus death rate from COVID-19 was higher than the world average.


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