Sustainable Policies


Economic Policies

Having taken a restrained approach to pandemic support, Mexico falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 39) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

GDP fell sharply by 8.3% in 2020, but the growth rate returned to above 6% in 2021. The government engaged in far less pandemic spending than most OECD peers, and indeed has pursued a conservative fiscal course despite its left-leaning credentials. Nevertheless, total debt reached an all-time high of 57.6% of GDP.

The pandemic caused more than 10 million people, mostly employed in the informal sector, to lose their jobs. The official unemployment rate rose to 4.53% in mid-2020. Tax collection is widely viewed as insufficient, with tax evasion, tax avoidance and the large informal sector all cited as contributors. The government did not provide firms with tax relief during the pandemic.

R&D spending is very low. Abrupt decisions by the current government have undermined the country’s investment climate. 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 2022 (rank 41) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

The healthcare system was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with the country suffering the world’s third-highest number of deaths. The government was accused of negligence and politicization of the response. A pension system reform is underway that has substantially boosted average benefit levels.

Education outcomes are poor despite relatively significant spending. A reform of the system is underway; preschool education is being made mandatory, and access to higher education is to be guaranteed. Greater funding is needed to support rising student populations. Poverty and extreme poverty rates have risen due to COVID-19.

Family policy is minimal. Integration policy is virtually nonexistent. Drug cartels are responsible for widespread and brutal crimes. The government has created a national guard to combat cartels, but the security situation has not improved. The high number of disappeared and probably murdered women is a serious problem.

Environmental Policies

Despite growing public awareness of environmental issues, Mexico receives a comparatively low overall ranking (rank 30) with respect to environmental policies. Its score in this area has declined by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

A landmark climate-change law went into effect in 2012, followed by a 2013 emissions-reductions reform. However, Mexico is still the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Latin America, and the importance of the oil industry creates barriers to domestic action.

The López Obrador administration has focused on “energy sovereignty” rather than sustainability. The government’s policy prioritizes environmentally harmful and soon-to-be obsolete power generation technologies and hinders the expansion of renewable energy. Many companies do not comply with existing regulations, a problem exacerbated by the high degree of informality.

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. Water consumption and pollution norms are less advanced.

Robust Democracy


Quality of Democracy

Struggling to contain corrosive organized-crime influences, Mexico falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 37) with regard to democracy quality. Its score in this area has declined by 0.8 points relative to 2014.

Elections are highly regulated, but crime-group activities, including the murder of candidates, undermine electoral integrity. Rampant violence against journalists makes reporting on corruption and collusion dangerous. The government has introduced participatory democracy measures.

The homicide rate has risen to its highest level ever. Given this escalating violence, it has been impossible to hold security forces to account for human rights abuses. Femicide is an increasingly serious problem. However, gender quotas have substantially improved the political representation of women.

Widespread impunity for corruption and homicides undermines the rule of law. A judicial reform has solidified court authority at the federal level, but the government has been accused of seeking to undermine judicial independence. Corruption is a serious problem in politics, the judiciary and the police, but a new law has ended impunity for presidents.

Good Governance


Executive Capacity

Despite its strong presidential system, Mexico performs relatively poorly (rank 30) in the area of executive capacity. Its score has fallen by 0.7 points relative to its 2014 level.

Decision-making is strongly centralized in the presidency. Particularly under López Obrador, strategic planning and key policy proposals have come from the presidential office rather than from external units or line ministries. This office is staffed with appointees that have the capacity to assess line ministry proposals, and is responsible for interministerial coordination.

RIAs are common and of generally high quality, with the agency responsible recently having received a broader mandate. However, government interest in evidence-based policy has declined. The president has personally handled most public communication, eliminating contradictions. Public consultation has shifted away from traditional business and trade union groups toward the broader civil society.

The current government has a highly ambitious reform agenda, calling for a so-called fourth transformation. While major social programs have been implemented, key aspects – including anti-corruption policies, demilitarization of the drug war, and effective COVID-19 management – have not been successful. Austerity has made it difficult for subnational governments to complete their tasks.

Executive Accountability

With a number of accountability concerns, Mexico receives relatively low overall rankings (rank 35) with regard to executive accountability. Its score in this area has declined by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

The presidential and electoral systems have systematically weakened parliament and its members. The government’s strong support in the legislature has led to limited oversight. The audit office is independent, but has little ability to effect change. The current ombudsman is loyal to the president’s party, leading critics to question the office’s independence.

Policy knowledge varies by class and education level. Many citizens proved ill-informed on COVID-19 issues, undermining efforts to manage the pandemic. Rampant violence has produced significant self-censorship among journalists, particularly on security-related issues. The new government relies on social media to get around an oligopolistic media.

The current government has worked more closely with NGO and social movements than with employers’ associations or trade unions. A number of union leaders are facing corruption charges.
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