Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Facing new economic worries related to U.S. politics, Mexico scores relatively poorly (rank 32) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to 2014.

Capable management has led to economic and financial stability in recent years. However, concerns over the Trump-era relationship with the United States have led to new uncertainty, a slowdown in growth, currency depreciation and greater inflation. Budgetary reforms aimed at reducing dependence on oil have not been successful.

Tax reforms have improved government collections, but the tax-to-GDP ratio remains very low due in part to widespread evasion and the large size of the informal sector. Unemployment rates have fallen despite economic headwinds. Labor-market regulations have been significantly loosened.

The government has prioritized budgetary discipline at the cost of growth. However, expenditures have increased despite consistent spending-cut promises. Debt has increased by more than 10% under the current administration. R&D funding is minimal. Dealing with financial inflows from illegal drug-related activities remains a major challenge.

Social Policies

Despite ongoing reforms addressing weaknesses, Mexico takes the lowest place in the SGI 2017 (rank 41) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Education outcomes are poor despite significant spending. Reforms aiming to create a more meritocratic teaching system have been diluted. Social division is substantial, though public policy has helped improve income distribution in recent years.

Health care quality varies widely. Formal workers generally have insurance, while policies increasingly extend coverage to informal workers. Family policy is minimal; urban areas are supportive of women’s rights, but poorer women have fewer labor-market opportunities. The strong demand for early child care and preschool services is unmet.

A proposal for a universal pension system has faced several years of political blockade. Integration policy is virtually nonexistent, while the issue of supporting returnees and deportees from the US, many of whom do not speak Spanish, is increasingly urgent. Drug cartels are responsible for widespread and brutal crimes. The high number of disappeared and probably murdered women is a serious problem.

Environmental Policies

Despite a growing awareness of environmental issues, Mexico receives a comparatively low ranking (rank 31) with respect to environmental policies. Its score in this area has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

A landmark climate-change law went into effect in 2012, but implementation remains slow. Serious environmental problems persist, including the provision of clean water, air pollution in Mexico City and rural deforestation and erosion. Policy strides have been made particularly in air-quality regulation. However, policy enforcement is lax, and many companies do not comply with regulations.

A marked decrease in population growth is relieving some environmental pressure. Nevertheless, the country is the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Latin America. The country is a leading actor on environmental policy within the region, but its reliance on gas and oil exports complicates its position.



Quality of Democracy

Struggling to contain corrosive organized-crime influences, Mexico receives a comparatively low score overall (rank 39) with regard to democracy quality. Its score in this area has declined by 1.0 point relative to 2014.

Independent candidates are newly allowed in national elections, increasing choice. Elections are highly regulated, but crime-group activities undermine electoral integrity. Parties are publicly financed, with tight spending restrictions. The media is independent of government, but rampant violence against journalists makes reporting on corruption and collusion dangerous.

Despite guaranteed formal rights, access to the court system is highly unequal. The security forces frequently violate civil rights, with courts failing to provide adequate protection. Police corruption is a serious problem. Self-defense forces have formed in some parts of the country, but have also been associated with human-rights violations.

While overt discrimination varies by region, class lines closely track racial divisions. A new anti-corruption system is seen as a step toward improving the rule of law, but is underfunded. The justice system is being gradually transitioned toward a U.S.-style adversarial system.



Executive Capacity

Despite a strong presidential system, Mexico falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 28) in the area of executive capacity. Its score has fallen by 0.7 points relative to its 2014 level.

All presidents are required to submit a strategic plan coming into office; but planning more generally is regaining favor. Several very ambitious recent reforms are testing planning capacities. The Finance and Interior ministries hold considerable power, while experienced policy experts are becoming increasingly common across the upper administration.

RIAs are common and of generally high quality, but do not address a multidimensional sustainability perspective. Originally viewed as a strong communicator, President Peña Nieto has pursued a hierarchical consultation style as his approval ratings have plummeted, failing to win support for far-reaching reform projects.

Implementation efficiency is undermined by financial shortcomings, local organizational weaknesses and high crime levels. Ministry monitoring of agencies is often weak due to uneven state capacity. Monitoring of the police and military is ineffective. Insufficient funding, corruption and inefficiency undermine national standards in many sectors.

Executive Accountability

With mixed strengths and weaknesses, Mexico scores relatively poorly in international comparison (rank 32) with regard to executive accountability. Its score in this area has declined by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

While legislators’ resources are limited, a recent law permitting reelection may strengthen legislative independence and oversight capabilities. The independent audit office is growing stronger. The ombudsman is well respected, but its powers are dwarfed by the unprecedented spread of violence.

Policy knowledge varies by class and education level. Mexico City print publications are of high quality, but entertainment predominates in the highly concentrated broadcast sector, and the large TV companies’ government ties limits their impartiality. Fear of reprisal by drug cartels produces significant self-censorship among journalists on critical security-related issues.

Employers’ associations are more sophisticated than trade unions. The NGO sector is maturing quickly, with considerable personnel interchange with the government.
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