One of the most repeated discursive elements of the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is austerity.
They never miss an opportunity to remind us how much they save on salaries, suppliers, gasoline and general administrative expenses.
AMLO’s economic zeal carries over into his personal life: he likes to show off his worn shoes, prefers to travel in economy class (to the discomfort of other passengers) and boasts of having already inherited all of his assets for your children. .
During the 2018 presidential campaign, he said he would not carry more than 200 pesos in his wallet. “Not even for a taxi,” he says.
Before continuing, it should be mentioned that AMLO’s austerity policy is not the economic income offered in Europe after the 2009 financial crisis. This austerity followed the Expansive Fiscal Contraction (CFE) hypothesis. .
The EFC postulates that reducing public spending, through austerity measures, encourages private consumption, raising the expectation of future tax cuts.
This is not the case in Mexico today.
AMLO austerity is yet another formula for eliminating corruption in the abstract. Thus, he transformed savings into a symbol of honesty and moral authority with traces of fetishism.
In its anti-corruption crusade, this government presents budget cuts, the disappearance of government agencies, the elimination of bureaucratic positions, the downward revision of salaries, etc. Every weight saved by the government would be a weight unless it passed into the hands of “La Corrupción”.
You may be wondering, dear reader: where are so many savings going? This is an excellent question, for which there is no clear answer.
Despite his enthusiasm for austerity, the hard data tells a different story about government.
According to the Higher Federal Audit Office (ASF), during the first year of the pre-pandemic term, 96% of the Budget Revenue Stabilization Fund (FEIP), a budget line item that contained the savings accumulated by the federal government over the past 20 years has been spent.
In these times of pandemic, AMLO’s austerity policies come up against a reality that demands an increasing level of spending in specific areas.
Let us look at a specific case: public education.
According to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), 1.3 million children and adolescents in basic education (preschool, elementary and secondary) are excluded from any type of school activity for reasons related to the pandemic.
This is data from the “Survey to measure the impact of Covid-19 on education”, which indicates that 20% of these children and adolescents have dropped out of virtual school for lack of a computer or a connection Internet.
You don’t have to be a genius to know that this population is concentrated in the poorest states of the country. Consider that in Chiapas, only 24.6% of households had internet connectivity in 2019.
Faced with this grim scenario, the new Education Secretary, Delfina Gómez, made her tenure on February 15, downsizing.
His letter to the Under-Secretaries and Directors General of the Ministry of Public Education is damning:
“I allow myself to distract your attention from the austerity policy that our Mr. President has promoted and to show the example that it is possible to have an honest performance and in strict compliance with the law. In the complicated context that we are living in this pandemic, I ask you to reconsider the number of people for which you are in charge and I ask you to present your proposal for reducing the workforce in the coming days ”.
Secretary Gómez does not explain her goal of saving a few pesos, nor does she inform the destination of these resources. He is simply trying to emulate “our president’s austerity policies” as if it were an example of an uplifting life.
Thus, and in the face of the tragedy experienced by Mexican children, the new head of the office has for first order to save money.
Wouldn’t it be better to spend money to locate and keep these children and adolescents in school?
In a surprising twist, it has been imposed in public discourse that austerity solves problems in a magical way.
We are in Holy Week, and with this in mind, it is worth remembering the parable of the talents in the Gospel of Matthew, 25: 14-30.
“There was a rich man who went on a journey and left his wealth in the hands of three servants, giving each of them coins to invest. On his return, the master sent for them and called them to account. The first returns the accumulated principal and interest, as well as the second. The third, however, reports that he buried the coins and now returns them as given to him. Enraged, the master expels him from his presence and says: “You should have given my money to the bankers, and when I would have come, I would have received what is mine with interest”.
As the master of the parable, the date is approaching when we, the Mexican voters, will ask this government, “What have you done with my money? The answer, I fear, will be a” I have kept it “.
Translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima