1.16.2007

Mexico's Calderon Promises Jobs

Today, Mexican President Felipe Calderon established National First Job Program, a $300 million program to help boost employment for among Mexico's vast underclass. The funds will be targeted to women who have never worked and struggle to support their families.

Readers of American Taíno know that I've been a strong critic of the Mexican ruling elites for failing to create jobs and upward mobility for Mexican workers. Instead, Mexico's policy has been to further enrich the elites while pushing the poor out of the country.

I suppose Calderon, unlike his predecessors, deserves credit for attempting to fulfill his campaign promise of creating jobs for Mexicans.

But I can't help wondering why it seems so difficult for Mexico's rulers to do the right thing? I mean, they allow half of their people to live in desperate poverty; they assume that they can use the United States as a safety valve in perpetuity--even while their actions trigger a backlash here; and they make promises to their poor and workers that they don't fulfill--and maybe never intended to do so.

Calderon now has a jobs program--good for him. But even this initiative seems too small and way late. For example:

1) It targets women with children--which is a start. Poor women with children can use jobs, too. But how about the men? It's predominantly the men that are forced to leave the country in order to find work. Shouldn't Calderon have a comprehensive strategy for creating employment for women and men?

2) Also, $300MM seems like a small amount of money given the vastness of the problem. Wouldn't it send the right message to Mexican workers and to it's neighbor to the north if instead Calderon took, let's say, $10 billion in Mexican oil profits and incentivised the creation of a significant number of new jobs? Wouldn't something on that scale cause people to believe that Mexico is finally getting serious about its obligation to its own people? $300MM creates just 30,000 jobs at $10,000 per year--and that's without accounting for the expenditures of a administering the program.

So, President Calderon, isn't really time to enact true economic and political reforms that lead to the enfranchisement of your people? Isn't long past time for the same old rhetoric accompanied by symbolic gestures?

Isn't it time to stop cuddling the Mexican upperclasses and demand that they begin paying their fair share?

Isn't it about time that Mexico's European minority learn how to share power with the country's native majority?

Isn't it time for Mexico to finally social and economic justice something more than empty slogans?