Volume 44, Number 174,
July-September 2013
Setbacks and Challenges for Social Policy in Mexico
José Narro Robles, David Moctezuma Narro
and Diego de la Fuente Stevens

Now more than ever, it is time to review and adapt social policy to a new strategy of economic growth and social equality. Mexico’s sole priority can no longer be the maintenance of macroeconomic balance. Although this area should not be ignored, collective welfare and social stability must take precedence. Fiscal equilibrium cannot take priority over social imbalances.

Of course, social and economic development and macroeconomic stability can coexist. If other countries have achieved this balance, why not Mexico? Up to now, however, the nation has not reached the point where it is possible to maintain macroeconomic equilibrium, low inflation rates, manageable public deficits, strong economic growth rates and real improvement in social welfare indicators.

Income inequality leads to disparities in access to basic services. This is even true for areas that serve to level the playing field, such as education and health. Inequality and poverty are often passed down from one generation to another, especially when the State fails to intervene. It is therefore useful to keep in mind the seven guidelines proposed in 2010 by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (unrisd):

  1. Growth to generate productive employment.
  2. Comprehensive social policies.
  3. Direct efforts to combat high levels of inequality.
  4. Implementation of effective government programs that undergo evaluation.
  5. Strengthening of political and democratic systems.
  6. Recognition of different mechanisms to combat poverty and inequality.
  7. Alignment of social and economic policies with institutional and political establishments that generate linkage among all actors and factors.

Inequality is an ethical problem, and as it stands, it is a serious obstacle to development. It will undoubtedly be necessary to adjust and modify the development model that Mexico has followed. Education, science, technology and innovation should play key roles in this transition. Transmitting, conserving and creating new knowledge form the basis upon which successful economic systems are built. Knowledge is a production factor, with a current relevance that is unprecedented in the history of humanity.

In particular, education has the effect of leveling the playing field, which is key for societies such as Mexico, characterized by deep, historical and abysmal inequalities.

It is time to recognize that solving major national problems requires designing new public policies. We need other approaches and new perspectives to break the mold and the dogmas holding us back. Creating jobs in rural areas and neighborhoods must be a major strategy, which, together with education, health and food, could lead to better results.

The Mexican economy must continue to grow, as sustainable expansion is fundamental to improving standards of living for society. We must not forget that the final and most important goal of an economy is no other than to improve overall standards of living. Mexico needs a development model that can generate economic growth, reduce inequalities, foster social cohesion and facilitate our nation’s insertion into the knowledge economy and society. We require a development model with a social outlook and a human touch.

It is therefore imperative to promote fiscal policy that leads to the fair distribution of taxes. People that do not currently contribute must begin to do so, while those that have more should contribute more to the development of the country. It is time to address longstanding issues. Poverty and inequality are part of these, and the strategy must come from a different development model and novel social public policies. That is our challenge.

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 48, Number 191, October-December 2017 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Alicia Girón González. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: Nov 13th, 2017.
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The online journal Problemas del Desarrollo. Revista Latinoamericana de Economía corresponds to the printed edition of the same title with ISSN 0301-7036