Last updateFri, 24 Apr 2015 4pm
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South of North–Key economic movement: eggs! Employment up, wages down; oil prices down, the economy also

International financial analysts saw the key market movement that convinced them. There was no doubt about it.  Mexico was economically in deep trouble, they agreed.  The evidence was clear. It was indisputable.  

After combing all the reports from the Republic’s various sectors,  and comparing the unpleasant result with the movement of a plethora of other theoretically junior national economies, of large and small foreign businesses, under-the-table economies, the plunging price of oil, the new tax hike, the pinch-eyed counting of the raged fringes of the economy, in the end the trouble came down to, amazingly – eggs!  

The damned Mexican eggs told the story. They were what caused all those wrinkled and sweaty brows.  

That sneakily surging price hike when certain people were not looking.   It was absolutely Tom Wolfian in its minutely brutal brazenness.  It made oily-haired giants of political and mercantile power swear and pound their desktops, turn with impolite anger to their spouses, even their several mistresses. They told their secretaries to put their clothes back on!

But there it was.  Latin America’s second largest economy was the world’s biggest consumer of eggs.  Journalists frowningly interviewed “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants.  In the capital, Alma Gonzalez said it was true: her customers were gobbling down dozens of eggs as if they were about to disappear.  

Yes.  It was there.  And it was ditto for chicken, for vegetables even homely food fare.  

Though some say,  “Just be patient.  The market will change, yes it will.”  One journalist went to Alberto Ramos, Latin American economist at Goldman Sachs.  But Al sees “feeble consumer and business confidence adding “head winds” to the continuing economic recovery.  “Recovery?”

Then it came.  Reuters reported it Monday, April 13. Mexico’s retailers association announced that sales at stores open at least a year rose 5.2 percent in March.  That association, known as ANTAD, includes retail chains Walmart and Soriano.  And Mexicans know how disastrous their word has been in helping understand fiscal mysteries.  

Yes, said one bean counter, Mexico’s economy often moves “in tandem” with that of the United States, the target of four-fifths of  Mexican exports.  And the outlook up north is promising.  Meaning things here should be too: car manufacturing, for example, construction sectors, bank lending, the latest intricate, and sly, mobile communication devices – thriving from the slippery deals of favored high placed jugglers.    

“But while unemployment is down,” says an executive from the think tank, Mexico Evalua, “employment is up,” as the minimum wage remains low enough to make Mexico seem fiscally loathsome.  This is the result of the tax reform.  Thus, six out of ten jobs are still in the informal sector.  The number of people who can’t make it from one fortnightly payday to the next has been running around 54.78 percent.

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s dream of a better economy was wrecked when international oil prices collapsed.  Yet those who were well-to-do or rich still are.  Meanwhile the oil price “slump” will continue.  And the government’s intention is to totally rewrite next year’s budget instead of just adjusting it, which once was another Peña Nieto dream  The shortfall for this year’s GDP has been put at 0.7 percent, which will reach 0.8 next year.  Public sector job losses will be harsh, most analysts say.  Yet Peña Nieto still speaks of a five percent growth by 2018.  One hard-eyed analyst suggests that it’s well to keep in mind that the president’s recent “promises” have crashed to earth.  The present scrubbed-off motto of “doing more with less” seems a bitterly unfair presidential suggestion. 

Many Mexicans – not counting professional economic morticians – see the nation as half asleep in the wake of continuing savagery.  Twenty slaughtered, then 43.  The presidency apparently dozing until enraged demonstrators called for Peña Nieto’s resignation. 

It kept the president so puzzled and, thus, frozen in place, that he never independently considered visiting bereft families of the 43 massacred student teachers of Iguala, Guerrero.  To many Mexicans, it apparently didn’t seem to the president to be worth the effort.  After all, the students were considered by the political/moneyed elite as perennial problem-makers.  More evidence of what many of his fellow citizens view as a character flaw that historically excludes large portions of fellow citizens as not worth “the bother.”  A viciously proud hold over from the vice-regal era.   

As 2014 ended, Forbes Magazine announced that “with allegations of corruption in government, politics, business and banking, throughout the year, corruption was the most pervasive issue in Mexico...”  This was news only to those who who missed noting the planting and doting of Spanish breeding, who wrongly read what’s taken place since the landing of Cortez & Co. in 1519.  It’s an Iberian character flaw imported and carefully cultivated by those early expats sporting a diseased mental/cultural vision of New Spain.  

Transparency International reported that Mexico had a score of 35 on a scale of 1 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very “clean”). Mexico ranked 103 among 175 countries in Transparency’s Corruption Perception Index, which ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be.  Best-ranked nation: Denmark; worst-ranked: Somalia. Among 31 countries in the Americas  assessed, ten ranked lower than Mexico: Argentina, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Haiti and Venezuela. The United States’ neighbor, Canada, ranked highest, Venezuela lowest.  Mexico also ranked the most corrupt among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.  

The abduction and murder of the 43 student teachers and the burning of their bodies, plus the government’s twisted, somnolent reaction, played an undeniable part in Mexico’s ranking, and, unhappily, the Republic’s general assessment more or less – despite the price of eggs.