So What Can We Expect From Our New President?

$26.5 billion in public works. That should fill a couple of potholes

Incoming president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, (usually shortened to the initials AMLO), has given priority  to seven  infrastructure projects costing $26.5 billion US and there doesn’t seem to be a pot hole on the entire agenda.

He is targeting the currently under construction Mexico City airport, and he wants a tourist train going from Cancún to Palenque. He would like to build an isthmus trade corridor at Tehuantepec, and offer full internet coverage for all. He wants to pave 300 rural roads and finally get behind earthquake reconstruction. A bit tardy there, and controversial. And of course, he wants to throw money at residents of marginalized neighborhoods. That’s his thing, he is a left leaning populist.

AMLO has announced that the funds to carry out these projects will come from cost-saving measures his administration intends to adopt such as cutting the salaries of high-ranking officials, consolidating government purchases, and drum roll here, through the elimination of corruption.

The president-elect, who was vehemently opposed to the airport project before softening his position to get more into the mainstream, said his transition team will consult with specialists and the public as part of his analysis of alternatives to the new airport. The current government has invested US $4.2 billion in the project, almost half of which has not been spent yet and remains in a trust.

In the Isthmus region — where the distance between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean is the shortest in the country— López Obrador said the aim is to “connect the countries of Asia with the east coast of the United States and create jobs in that entire strip of national territory.” The development planned for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec would include the modernization of the railroad between Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, and Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, as well as the upgrading of the region’s highways. Well, that leaves Baja out. That route is way south of the peninsula and is about 125 miles from Pacific ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

The third infrastructure priority is the so-called Mayan Train that would run between Quintana Roo, (think Cancun),  and Chiapas and cost US $3.4 billion. Slated to be completed in four stages, the train line will have nine stops and is intended to boost tourism and the economy in the south of Mexico.

López Obrador said the fourth project would focus primarily on ensuring that all rural communities in the relatively poor states of Oaxaca and Guerrero are accessible via paved roads, adding that construction would require “the intensive use of labor” and consequently generate much-needed employment for local residents.

The president-elect also said his government will prioritize internet access to all Mexicans, pledging that the entire country will be connected.

López Obrador said he will present a national earthquake reconstruction plan on September 19, the first anniversary of the second of last September’s two major quakes. The plan will prioritize “victims who are still living in camps exposed to the elements and who have not been supported.”  He pledged that monetary assistance will be fully funded by the federal budget and not provided in the form of loans. Did we mention he is a populist? That’s been his history as mayor of Mexico City for several terms, in between running for president no less than three times.

Finally, the president-elect announced that residents of Mexico’s poorest neighborhoods will be given support. Those living in marginalized areas of border cities, and the country’s main tourism destinations and the metropolitan area of greater Mexico City are also set to be the initial priority. Well, “attention to main tourism destinations” sounds hopeful.

But let’s be honest, we’re richy rich compared to most of Mexico, so let’s not get greedy, let’s get behind all these projects for the good of most Mexicans.