The Current Problems of the National Economy, Gustavo López Pardo and Verónica Villarespe (coords.), iiec-unam, 2012.

Like other sciences and disciplines, the field of economics also performs research to try to explain why certain economic phenomena, which may directly or indirectly affect us, occur. This book, which brings together works presented at a cycle of conferences organized by the unam Institute of Economic Research (iiec-unam) and the National Preparatory School, offers a general overview of economic topics to give high-school level students a better idea of problems considered relevant to the national economy. The book is made up of nine chapters and the authors are mainly (iiec-unam researchers.

  1. “Employment and Unemployment in Mexico,” written by Gerardo González, ponders a few variables, like employment trends, the evolution of formal, informal or precarious employment and the migration of the labor force to the United States. The transition at the end of the twentieth century from a State that directly intervened in the economy to establish basic guarantees to a minimalist State linked to restrictive fiscal and monetary policies, is notable, as well as another concept known as labor flexibility, related to wages and productivity. This situation, together with the lack of economic growth, has caused the deterioration of the Mexican labor market, excluding millions of Mexicans from working and basic consumption and forcing others to migrate, in many cases, from the skilled workforce.

  2. Argelia Salinas writes about “The Strategic Importance of Agriculture in Mexico,” and its relevance in supplying food to the national population, as the agricultural and livestock sector produces the food that makes up the basic food basket. She briefly addresses the topic of its contribution through currency and towards generating environmental services, and provides a general overview of the agricultural and livestock sector in Mexico from 2000-2010, which is rather negative due to neglect in recent years, accentuated with the 2008 economic crisis. This carelessness has meant that in Mexico, the prices of basic foods have gone up since 2006.

  3. “Conceptual Aspects and the Food Security Situation in Mexico,” by Felipe Torres, explains why food security constitutes an essential element of human societies and underlines the importance of availability, stability and access to food. He seeks to identify the repercussions of food security in Mexico and its determining structural factors. Because it is an obstacle faced by poor and lagging countries, “food security is not an issue of balance, but rather of social equality.” It should therefore be analyzed and discussed in the framework of three conditioning factors: the cumulative effects of income crises, the effects of the decline of agricultural and livestock production and the absence of public policies.

  4. “The Mexican Manufacturing Industry,” by Ana Luisa González Arévalo, briefly describes the behavior of the structure of the Mexican manufacturing sector over the past years and introduces the deindustrialization coefficient for the sector. It turns out that even if a country has had an export boom, it may not necessarily have led to the conformation of a strong industrial structure.

  5. Gustavo López Pardo wrote “Tourism in Mexico,” pointing to this sector as the third-highest economic activity in generating currency on the global scale. On the national scale, tourism is considered to be strategic for Mexico’s economic development given its importance in attracting currency, creating jobs and driving regional development. He describes the rapid advance of tourism in countries in emerging regions, like the Asian Pacific and the Middle East, in light of a slowdown in traditional areas. This section includes a series of tables showing the behavior and readjustments made by principal tourist destinations. According to this work, tourism is a growing economic activity with significant potential to be exploited in the years to come.

  6. “International Labor Migration: Mexico and the United States,” by Genoveva Roldán, goes through the history of migration from Mexico to the United States from its origins to the present day, and introduces some reflections on the overall features of the migratory phenomenon between these two countries. In 2010, migration to the US was 11,859,200 Mexicans, who, together with their descendants, reached 20 million people, making Mexico the third-greatest receiver of remittances in the world, with 22.6 billion dollars annually. However, the author mentions that there is a risk when measuring and recording migrations and remittances, because the figures are not exempt from issues related to over or under-estimating. It is therefore recommended to use statistics taking into account all possible exceptions and reserves.

  7. The chapter written by Bernardo Olmedo, “Designation of Origin and Official Standards: The Case of Tequila,” highlights the importance of ancestral knowledge that is part of the cultural wealth of Mexico, as well as the need to protect this knowledge. He uses the case of Mexico’s traditional and emblematic alcoholic drink, tequila, considered to be part of the sociocultural identity of our country, as well as an ethnic and nostalgic product. The author criticizes what he believes should be part of the functions of the Mexican State. That is, the State should be regulating both designation of origin (do) and the Official Mexican Standards (nom), which it currently does not, as business leaders are responsible for these tasks at the moment.

  8. Armando Sánchez, Francisco Estrada and Carlos Gay authored the work, “Climate Change and Poverty in Mexico City,” which analyzes a few key indicators to reflect upon the effects of climate change on poverty levels of urban families, with a specific focus on residents of Mexico City. The indicators used were, “water availability, migration, income, food security, health and marginalization of poor communities.” They use different econometric models to estimate these effects.

  9. Iris Guevara debates the relevance of “Financing Public Higher Education in Mexico.” Since the beginning of the 1980s, the Mexican State has allocated insufficient resources for this purpose. During the same period, private education grew, and as a result, so did family spending in this area. This work develops the following points: the globalization process, the current demographic structure of Mexico, progress in educational system indicators, changes in the economic policy of Mexico and spending on higher education.

This type of project is also valuable because it encourages students and researchers to interact and exchange ideas, which may generate further interest, foster debate or simply awaken student curiosity in economic topics.

José Luis Maya
Institute of Economic Research – unam