What About La Paz?

May 29, 2017 Edition
BY: JAMES BELL

We´re number one! In the first quarter of this year, Baja California Sur had the lowest number of “working poor” households (those that work but still can’t provide sufficient income for a family´s minimum food requirements) of all the 31 Mexican states. The national average is 40%, but the working poor for BCS is less than half this rate, at 19%.

La Paz and Los Cabos also have the lowest poverty rates in the state, due mainly to a long history of tourism development. Just think, if it weren´t for the strong tourism in the state (and some agricultural exports), our poverty rates could be similar to the rates of southern states like Chiapas, which has the highest rate at nearly 70%. So, thank you, tourists! All foreigners may take a bow here.

Another big ship arrives The Pacific Princess cruise liner arrived in the La Paz deep water port of Pichilingue recently, unleashing nearly 700 passengers eager to check out the sites and spend some money. Hopefully, there will be more visits like this in the future, as it’s estimated that each passenger spends an average of $70 USD per visit, dinero that is well received (and much needed) by local businesses.

Cruise ship arrivals to Mexico are expected to increase by as much as 6% this year. As of April 28, more than two million passengers had visited Mexico, which puts the country on track to becoming the top destination for cruise ships in the world, with Quintana Roo (think Cancun) earning the top spot in Mexico. Mexicans love their cruises as well. According to one study, Mexicans even spend more, around $90 per day —mostly in the casinos on board— than the British, Japanese, and Americans.

Betcha didn´t know La Paz generates about 520 tons of trash every day, which translates into roughly a one pound of garbage from every resident in the city. According to data from the non-governmental organization Observatorio Ciudadano (Citizens´Observatory), around 27% of the garbage produced in the city comes from residences, and a large amount comes from materials ominously labelled “specially handled solid residuals,” which include construction materials.

Between 300 and 400 tires are deposited in local landfills every day. Unfortunately, many more tires are never properly deposited in the municipal dumps, but rather tossed out in outlying areas of the city by thoughtless residents seeking a convenient (and cheap) place to dump their old tires and residential trash, including lots of ugly plastic. Anyone who has hiked outside the city limits can attest to this horrible practice, although in recent years this indiscriminate dumping seems to have been reduced slightly.

Speaking of garbage La Paz has invested close to $32,000 in GPS devices for its fleet of 30 garbage trucks. The devices were purchased to save fuel and lower operating costs. The Director of Public Services says they let officials track the vehicles in real time during their collection runs. They provide location and mileage data, speed, and the condition of the vehicles. When a driver exceeds the speed limit, fuel costs go up and the chance of a vehicle breakdown increases. The director explained that if a driver breaks the speed limit, the vehicle can be shut down automatically, which avoids abuse and saves money.

Although La Paz is facing tough financial times, and 32 grand seems like a big chunk of change for the devices, the director says the system has already lowered operating costs, and could save as much as 40% of fuel costs. And who can argue against reducing unnecessary government expenditures?

Fewer dropouts in BCS The State Secretary of Education says the high school dropout  rate has dropped from 15% to 11% in BCS. That’s our state, Bunky. A higher number of students enrolled in degree programs and more financial grants given to needy students are seen as the primary reasons for the improvement.

As that rate decreases, enrollment rates are increasing. In 2016, more than 253,000 students enrolled in the state’s school, an increase of 12%. That puts pressure on the school systems to make adjustments, like having elementary teachers take up high school positions to fill the new needs. More than 338 more teaching positions were created to handle the expanded student population. Altogether, Southern Baja employs 10,412 teachers; 89% of these instructors work in public schools and the rest are in private schools, whose numbers have also increased in recent years.