What's Going On In This Country?

December 24, 2018 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

Do we have enough docs? Yes, if you’re a foreigner.  Our head of the health department has announced the average is one doctor for every thousand inhabitants, 1 nurse for every doctor and 1.5 beds for every 1,000 inhabitants. But, in our state there are 2.5 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants, 1.2 nurses for each doctor and 1.5 beds per 1,000 inhabitants, which exceeds the statistical data at the national level, as confirmed with information from the OECD.

In this country there is an average of 3.8 hospitals per 100,000 inhabitants and in BCS there are 4.9 hospitals per 100,000 inhabitants. In this state there are 19 public hospitals and 22 private hospitals. In the city of Los Cabos alone there are 5 public hospitals and 15 private hospitals. Read “private” as expecting cash paying foreigners to keep them afloat. Is it any wonder that when a lot of these hospitals get a foreigner, they stick an IV in him or her, and hold the patient hostage?

Is this a failed state? No, not BCS, we’re fine here, but the country has no-go areas where even the police and soldiers fear to tread. Two new self-defense forces have emerged in two municipalities in the state of Guerrero in response to ongoing violence and insecurity while another may soon be required in a third municipality. These so called self defense forces are citizens who are arming themselves and patrolling their city. This is how Mexico gets such a bad reputation. Stay out of the state of Guerrero. That region includes Acapulco which no foreign tourists go to anymore. When they closed their convention center, they turned it into a national guard armory. What does that tell us? No go, that’s what.

The problem with the vigilante groups  trying to guard their homes and towns, is they so often turn bad themselves. There’s just something about a man with a gun…

Not on AMLO’s watch. There will be no fracking for natural gas according to the new president. He doesn’t care Mexico has to import 80% of the natural gas we use. But he did bulldoze down a whole bunch of mangroves for a new refinery. Oops, forgot to get a permit to do that. Not important, says he, we need the $8 billion refinery. Says the President, “We don’t gotta show you no stinkin permits”. Well, we paraphrase. López Obrador has pledged that the new refinery, which would be the nation’s seventh, will help Mexico to become self-sufficient in energy and boost the economy of southeastern states. Which justifies no stinkin permits required, right?

So, back to those fracking permits, is anyone sure we need those more than we need to be self sufficient in natural gas?

Mexico City No. 1.  That’s on a list of Christmas holiday destinations that have seen the highest growth in interest and bookings this year on the online hospitality service Airbnb. Out of all the world’s destinations Mexico City recorded a 117% growth based on reservations, searches and the number of site visitors who added it to their wish list. Puerto Vallarta ranked third with 92% more interest, while Tulum, Quintana Roo, was fourth with 78% more.

Airbnb says the list reflects travelers’ increasing focus on sustainable and authentic tourism and helping communities recover from hardships or disasters. Puebla’s principal attractions for travelers were its museums, culinary hotspots and distinct architecture. Huh? What ever happened to party till you puke? And what are we in Cabo, chopped liver? Nobody wants to come here?

Mexico’s new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador unveiled a budget proposal for 2019 that calls for a moderate increase in spending without raising taxes or the country’s debt. Mexico has about 48% of debt to GDP. (The United States is about 104%). He’s trying to whittle that down by 1% this year. Government spending is set to rise 6.1% in real terms from what was approved for 2018, with revenue estimated to increase by 6.3%. López Obrador plans to raise that money by being more efficient in tax collection and bringing corruption under control. Ha ha ha. Even a cat knows that’s not going to happen.

Mexico’s new administration expects the economy to grow 2% next year. The budget assumes an average price for Mexican oil next year of $55 a barrel, above the current price of $52 a barrel but below the $62 average that was expected for 2018. About 20% of government revenue comes from oil. Or rather used to. Not so much these days with Pemex in a pickle of corruption and unable to improvise or even fund exploration for new oil. They also don’t have the expertise or equipment to get out of the ground or sea most of the new oil found.

López Obrador, a leftist, took office earlier this month after winning the election by a landslide. He wants to lift the country’s economic growth, which has been stable but modest in recent decades, by giving the state a bigger role in the economy through more public works, expanded social programs, and higher wages for workers. He wants to kill the $14 billion national airport currently under construction but build his pet $3 billion railroad.

He's got a handle on this economy thing, he says, by giving up the presidential airplane and flying coach and by arriving at his inauguration in a Volkswagen. Not to worry, he’s got this.

Here’s a shocker. The minimum wage will increase by 16% on January 1 to 102.68 pesos (US $5.10). It has to be reevaluated every January, guided by inflation, but it’s usually a tiny fraction of what most people believe is the real inflation rate. Along the border it will go up to $8.80 a day, great news for the Central American migrants stranded there. Tijuana has a huge need for labor, being 7,000 to 10,000 people short.

The head of the minimum wage commission for 27 years was removed in the same week, surprise, surprise.

However, even with the increase set to take effect on New Year’s Day, Mexico will continue to have one of the lowest minimum wages in Latin America. They also have a terrible brain drain, with approximately 19,000 engineers living and working abroad. In Mexico City a waitress getting tips makes more money than an engineer’s salary.

Here in Cabo we’re so short of labor it’s apparent everywhere we shop. Wage inflation has got to set in here soon. But that will attract more people from the mainland and our government doesn’t have the will or the knowledge how to create the infrastructure for them.

No more poor people’s insurance.  But not to worry, as our new President López Obrador worries a lot about the poor. He is dismantling Seguro Popular, separate health care for those with none, and integrating it into the national health scheme. He believes two parallel universes for the sick and injured is not cost effective. So, now, everyone goes to the same hospital and sees the same docs whether they have health insurance or not. The uninsured are those who don’t work or work under the table, about 48% of the country. Yes, that’s a shocker. It’s not called working under the table, nor is it called tax fraud, it’s called “the informal economy”.

Here we go again. Students at a teacher training school on the mainland hijacked eight vehicles in a protest against the state government. Masked students nabbed five trucks and three buses, ordering the drivers out and commandeering the vehicles. Aerial footage shows the eight vehicles on the school grounds, where students looted the trucks’ cargo.

A student initially denied that any vehicles were being kept on the school’s premises but then explained that the hijacking was in protest against the government for not releasing funds for the school’s maintenance and, oh yes, they wanted scholarships for 540 students.

But students in Guerrero probably hold the record for largest number of hijacked vehicles. An estimated 500 were stolen during protests there and current teachers have also engaged in the practice. In 2016, teachers had an impressive storage lot of 75 stolen vehicles in the state of Michoacán. They were among 200 that authorities believed were stolen in protests against the 2012 education reforms. And therein lies the real reason for all this, other than the fact they discovered the former President would do nothing to stop them. His “education reforms” they are protesting are competency tests and would they please consider halting the practice of selling their jobs to people who have never  been trained in teaching?

They smell blood in the water as the new President has expressed sympathy for them and promised to meet their demands.