Monday, October 12, 2009

Reaction to the Liquidation

Two of Mexico's most thoughtful moderate analysts had pretty similar takes on the Luz y Fuerza takeover. Here's Jorge Chabat:
Calderón's decision will surely provoke reactions from the corporatist-priísta wing of the left, which longs for the era in which a few people blackmailed the government to obtain privileges. And it will absolutely provoke a reaction, old-school style, from the Mexican Electricians Union (SME), which will use pressure as it is for decades. Nevertheless, the great majority of Mexicans, those of us who cannot retire at 50 with fat salaries, will celebrate this decision that now costs us a total of 42 billion pesos a year. Evidently, nobody likes to lose privileges. But nor does anyone like to pay so that just a few can have privileges at the expense of the rest of the population.

There are decisions that change governments. The decision of president Calderón to put an end to decades of the bleeding of public funds by a powerful group is thus far the most important of his tenure. Hopefully it will be only the beginning of the end of the special interests that we inherited from the old regime and that have the country drowning in misery and underdevelopment.
And here's Leo Zuckermann:
There were very few who came to the defense of the SME. The customers, the true victims of the Luz y Fuerza inefficiency, of course did not. The media had thousands of complaints that allowed them to see the bade service and the corruption. Only the parties of the left, above all their most radical members, defended the SME due the political alliance that they had. There were also other unions that showed solidarity, perhaps because of the old saw that "a neighbor's housefire is your problem, too".*

The government took charge of putting the topic of Luz y Fuerza on the agenda. The environment was ideal for liquidating the company. But many wondered if they would dare to do it. And it's true that, in the past, the Calderón government has promised a lot only to later reverse course and deliver meager results. Nevertheless, on September 2 the president had offered deep changes. Beyond the discourse, he had to demonstrate it. On Saturday, he did. He dared to do what no other president had done since the '80s: confront one of the most powerful and radical unions in Mexico, liquidating the most ineffective public company of them all.
The Calderón lovefest is a bit much, and this is still just a first step (SME isn't Pemex or the SNTE, after all), but this feeling isn't isolated. I heard someone else making a similarly enthusiastic case for the Calderón's action being truly historic yesterday.

Zuckermann also mentions that the union recently inaugurated a $10 million basketball gym with a court that compares with NBA quality. Even if that's a bit exaggerated, that's a tone-deaf move that reminds one of the Big Three execs taking three different charter jets to Washington to ask for more bailout funds.

*A good English substitute for, “Cuando las barbas de tu vecino veas cortar pon las tuyas a remojar”, doesn't come to mind, but the above one means basically the same thing.


jd said...

I think the real coup is optimism from Schettino: his column ends with, of all things, a "Vamos cambiando." I wasn't sure I'd ever see the day.

pc said...

Quite something. The stat the opens the column is also pretty shocking: 3 percent of the GDP has gone to that company in the past ten years. That boggles the mind.