The Saying that Challenges All Mexicans

The document is available in the IMCO's site: www.imco.org.mx.

The document is available in the IMCO’s site: http://www.imco.org.mx.

There is a popular saying in Mexico: “El que no transa, no avanza”. That means something like: “If you don’t cheat, then you can’t progress”. The problem in Mexico is that, even with cheating, the country doesn’t progress.

In one year, Mexico loses around 5 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in corruption; that is, around 890,000 million pesos-some 53,000 million dollars, said Maria Amparo Casar, director of Anti-Corruption of the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness (IMCO, in Spanish).

What does that mean? During the presentation of the study Corrupción en México. Transamos y no avanzamos –the translation could be Corruption in Mexico. We cheat, but we don’t progress– Casar indicates that these resources are similar to three times the budget of the Ministry of Education; 7.7 times the destined to Social Development, and 87 times the financing of the UNAM (the most important public university).

Unfortunately the study is telling us that nothing is new since 14 years ago, when this investigation was published the first time.

“The 63% of respondents is agreed or strongly agreed that corruption is part of the business culture in Mexico”, is written in the publication.

Of course! Mexico has so many stories about corruption. I can start with the President Enrique Peña Nieto and the First Lady Angelica Rivera, whom their “White House”, valued in more than seven million dollars. The residence was a kind of payment of HIGA group for the tender for the train Mexico City-Queretaro, as Aristegui Noticias published.

The problem in Mexico is not necessarily the corruption, because it exists in the whole world, wrote Juan Pardinas, CEO of IMCO.

“The corruption is not an exclusive problem of Mexico, but the impunity it is”, explains Pardinas.

He says that China, Brazil and United States have high levels of corruption, but the difference with Mexico is that in those countries the public servants are punished. “In Mexico the corruption scandals do not have consequences in the courts”.

And back to the Mexican Presidency, when the “White House” case was published, Mr. Peña Nieto designated to Virgilio Andrade as Secretary of the Function Public. His first assignment was to investigate if there are conflicts of interest between the “White House” and HIGA group.

But here is something strange: the coincidence that Mr. Andrade is a close friend of the Secretary of Finance Luis Videgaray. Their friendship started in 1986 in the ITAM, the university where they studied.

The situation was more turbid. In 2012, Mr. Videgaray bought a house in the Golf Club in Malinalco, in the State of Mexico, to HIGA group! This was published by Reforma, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Conveniently, Mr. Andrade exonerated to his friend Mr. Videgaray and the President Peña Nieto.  That means that he didn’t find any conflict of interest.

Pardinas wrote that in countries as Brazil or United States, the public servants are punished. In Mexico they are not.

In the previous cases, the public servants accomplish with the saying: “If you don’t cheat, then you can’t progress”. But the progress is just for them, not the country. That is exactly what IMCO’s study indicates.

“The investment decisions are not based on achieving the greatest social benefit or increase the profitability of investments, but to raise the possibility of rent extraction (corruption),” says the investigation.

If the corruption in Mexico is common, then why doesn’t the country grow?

A Brazilian established business man, in Mexico, expressed his opinion: “The problem of corruption is that it perverts the business model of any company, because the success does not depend on the innovation, efficiency and willingness to take risks, because you will succeed if you contact the right authorities”, indicates the text. That means that the profit of corruption is for some people, but affects all society.

No, the answer is not that more Mexicans should benefit from corruption. The answer is that the corrupted people should be punished.

“The data and evidence are a challenge to the popular saying. In Mexico there are cheaters and the country does not advance. To finish with the impunity is a challenge, because the corruption slows our economy and affects the social coexistence “, concludes Pardinas in his text.

Mexico is one of those countries that move a forward step, but almost immediately one or more steps backward.

Mexico is one of those countries that move a forward step, but almost immediately one or more steps backward.

The IMCO’s investigation adds that Mexico is in the 40 position about the rule of law that includes the corruption. The country is just above of Colombia, Nigeria and Guatemala. But even in this last small country, the former president Otto Perez Molina is in prison accused of bribery in customs offices.

“The most significant lag for Mexico is in the subscript associated with the rule of law, which evaluates the existence of clear rules, legal certainty, public safety and corruption”, explains the competitiveness study.

Maybe some people believe that the fight against the corruption is just putting the eye on the public servants. They are wrong! Casar says that the corruption needs to be on demand.

“There is corruption because someone who offers something will find someone else who demands that something. To try to find a solution against the corruption we need to consider the public sector, as well as the participation of the companies and citizens”, wrote Casar.

What can Mexico do? The experts suggest:

  • Strengthen the National System Anticorruption (SNA, in Spanish).
  • Give professional status to the state police departments.
  • Associate the unique national ID with biometric data.

If the Mexican Government applies these suggestions, it will send two messages to the citizens:

  1. The corrupted public servants will be punished; then they will think twice before committing these out of the law activities.
  2. The citizens will trust more in their institutions; they will stop to believe that the only way to advance is by being corrupted.

Of the 43 nations that the IMCO studies every year, Mexico has occupied the places from 32 to 37 in competitiveness. That means that the Mexicans always make a step forward and other or others steps backward.

It doesn’t need a magic formula to make a better country, nor close to perfect, that is clear. But there are some actions that could help the nation find better solutions to its problems. Then Mexico, for example, it should be able to get a better position in the rankings… just if its Government wants.

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