Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Facing growing worries related to U.S. politics, Mexico scores relatively poorly (rank 36) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Capable management has led to comparative economic and financial stability in recent years. However, declines in oil prices and uncertainty regarding the relationship with Trump’s United States have led to a slowdown in growth, greater inflation and rising debt. 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 decline in oil prices has prompted tax shifts and a reduction in energy subsidies. A problematic opacity in public spending has been partially addressed through new anti-corruption laws. Debt has increased by more than 10% under the current administration. 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 2018 (rank 41) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Education outcomes are poor despite relatively significant spending. Reforms aiming to create a more meritocratic teaching system have been diluted. Improvements include more students pursuing STEM degrees and a greater share of four-year-olds attending preschool. Income inequality is very high, with poverty strongly concentrated among indigenous and rural populations.

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.

Only a minority of the population is covered by pensions. 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 increasingly 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 overall ranking (rank 32) 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, enforcement is lax, and many companies do not comply with regulations.

Provisions of an energy reform implemented in 2016 provide incentives for the use of renewables and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The country is also one of Latin America’s main recipients of funds from clean-development mechanisms.

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 has been praised internationally for proactive innovation, but domestic environmental policymaking has not kept pace.



Quality of Democracy

Struggling to contain corrosive organized-crime influences, Mexico falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 39) with regard to democracy quality. Its score in this area has declined by 1.2 points relative to 2014.

Elections are highly regulated, but crime-group activities undermine electoral integrity, and oversight is incomplete. The public-financing system for parties is losing public support. The media is independent of government, but rampant violence against journalists makes reporting on corruption and collusion dangerous. Journalists critical of the government have been subject to reprisals.

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. Self-defense forces have formed in some parts of the country, but have also been associated with human-rights violations. Violent crime is widespread.

While overt discrimination varies by region, class lines closely track racial divisions. Implementation of a new anti-corruption system has floundered. Numerous high-profile corruption cases emerged in 2017, with many figures involved close to the government. The court system is ineffective particularly at prosecuting powerful individuals.



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 0.9 points relative to its 2014 level.

Planning has seen a resurgence in popularity, but considerable uncertainty stems from external sources, as seen with the future of NAFTA. Political roadblocks rather than a lack of policy expertise often result in policy failure. 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 saw his approval ratings plummet, and failed to win support for far-reaching reform projects. Expensive public communication often took the form of government propaganda rather than of informational campaigns.

Implementation efficiency is undermined by financial shortcomings, local organizational weaknesses and high crime levels. Monitoring of the police and military is ineffective. Insufficient funding, corruption and inefficiency undermine national standards in many sectors. Federalism is undermined not only by an overbearing center, but also by a lack of subnational accountability.

Executive Accountability

With a number of accountability concerns, Mexico falls into the bottom ranks worldwide (rank 36) with regard to executive accountability. Its score in this area has declined by 0.8 points relative to 2014.

While legislators’ resources are limited, a recent law permitting reelection may strengthen legislative independence and oversight capabilities once implemented. The audit office is independent, but has little ability to effect change. The ombudsman is well respected, but its powers are dwarfed by the unprecedented spread of violence.

Policy knowledge varies by class and education level, with many citizens unaware of key policies. Mexico City print publications are of high quality, but entertainment predominates in the highly concentrated broadcast sector. 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, but dominated by elites that do not necessarily pursue the interests of their broader sectors. The NGO sector is maturing quickly, and is gaining increasing influence.
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