Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Harsher Take on the PAN

Here's Alberto Aziz Nassif on the decade of the PAN:
In ten years the panista right has demonstrated that it doesn't have the capability of changing the course of development toward more inclusive policies, that could correct the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Mexicans that each year join the informal workforce or immigrate. The social policies that has been applied in these years is, according to some economists, is like a tip that won't thoroughly attack poverty. In economics there is a continuity of the neoliberal orthodoxy and an incapacity to grow. In the labor market corporate control has grown, adding to the destruction of jobs. Politically, there is a weakened presidency that navigates between special interests without achieving its own profile, except on the issue of organized crime.

In the celebration of their ten years, Felipe Calderón said yesterday that Mexico didn't deserve a return to the "old-fashioned, the authoritarian, the irresponsible [past]". But, since when did panista governments leave those circumstances behind?
There's a lot of fair criticism in there, and a lot that is a little too strident for my taste (i.e. the final implication that there is nothing separating the PAN presidencies from that of, say, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz). I would have been interested to see a little more about Calderón's neoliberalism, which is repeatedly tossed off without much clarification. I'm having a hard time thinking of any single episode that was both a significant change of course and a significant embrace of any of the ten planks of the Washington Consensus. I guess you could point to the Luz y Fuerza takeover, but operations weren't privatized, but rather turned over to another state firm. Trade wasn't further liberalized, nor was there a great change in attitudes toward FDI, nor was there a big change in how exchange rates were managed. There was, painfully, no tax reform, nor did the oil reform come close to being neoliberal. Or how about this goal of the WC:
Redirection of public spending from subsidies ("especially indiscriminate subsidies") toward broad-based provision of key pro-growth, pro-poor services like primary education, primary health care and infrastructure investment;
Does that describe the source of Calderón's economic failures? I'd say not in the least. Maybe there's something I'm missing, but nothing comes to mind. I guess you could argue that Calderón's neoliberal sins lie in maintaining previous changes in policies regarding trade, property rights, and the rest, but in that case AMLO may well have been a neoliberal devotee, too.

That's not a defense of Calderón's development program, but I think attacking him as a "neoliberal" just confuses the issue. The argument would be much better were he --and everyone else who accuses with that loaded term-- to point to specific policies that failed. In other words, I'm not convinced that the ways in which Fox's and Calderón's development policy fell short were failings of neoliberal per se, despite each man coming from the right. This sounds more like neoliberal as a euphemism for, "a rightist president whom I dislike".

Really, the basis of any criticism of Calderón's (though not Fox's) development results is provided very concisely by Aguachile here. And no, the word neoliberal doesn't pop up once.

No comments: