The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

September 9, 2013

Mexico proposes sweeping social program changes

MEXICO CITY — President Enrique Pena Nieto proposed sweeping changes to Mexico's social programs Sunday, laying out a plan for the country's first nationwide pensions and unemployment insurance to be financed by cutting tax loopholes for big business.

Pena Nieto's proposal had originally been billed as solely an overhaul of the tax system, and it would cut most of the industry-specific tax loopholes written into Mexico's tax codes over decades.

But in his announcement, Pena Nieto went much further. He proposed the country's first carbon tax on fossil fuels used by industry, a levy often touted as a way to combat climate change. He also called for a tax on soft drinks, which he said is needed to combat Mexico's high rate of obesity.

"The tax reform is a social policy reform," Pena Nieto said in a speech at the presidential residence announcing the plan.

He said he would allow slight deficit spending in 2014 in effort to spur the flagging economy, institute rules to lure the 60 percent of Mexicans who work in the "informal" sector into tax compliance, and create a stabilization fund to save excess tax revenues from boom years for use during lean times.

Some Mexican local governments, and particularly Mexico City, have experimented with small supplementary payments to the unemployed and people older than 70, but the country as a whole has not had unemployment insurance and it now has a patchwork of pension plans. A privately managed individual retirement system instituted in the 1990s includes only a minority of workers, most of whom have built up only very small balances in their accounts.

Pena Nieto did not provide specifics of the social program plans or tax changes, but said that "those who have more income will pay more."

He proposed to institute Mexico's capital-gains tax, although he also pledged to abolish the unpopular alternative minimum corporate tax as well as a tax on cash deposits at banks.

The proposals must be approved by both houses of congress and a majority of state legislatures because they involve constitutional changes.

Seeking to spur specific industries, Mexico over the decades has granted special tax deferments, depreciation allowances, tax consolidation and other benefits to companies.

"Those privileges that have no reason to exist will end," Pena Nieto said, while predicting his plan would boost the government's tax revenues by 1.4 percent of GDP in 2014 and 3 percent by 2018.

Mexico's long-coddled big business sector appeared to bear the brunt of many of the changes. But industry isn't likely to get much sympathy in a country with enormous income disparity — Mexico is home to the world's richest man, telecom magnate Carlos Slim, while nearly half the population lives in poverty.

"I think there are very positive things, especially on the social program side, but what we see in the (proposal) to increase tax revenues by 1.4 percent, well, that will basically be paid for by the private sector," Gerardo Gutierrez, president of Mexico's Business Coordinating Council, told local media.

Few had expected the president, whose centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party is known for its close ties to business, to go so far.

Indeed, some had expected him to push the widely unpopular idea of extending the sales tax to food and medicines. He said he didn't adopt that approach because it would hurt the poorest Mexicans. But he said he would follow through with periodic increases in gasoline prices, which is aimed at phasing out fuel subsidies in Mexico.

The changes are part of a series of ambitious reforms that Pena Nieto hopes to push through in his first year in office.

Some, like educational reforms that introduce teacher evaluations, have sailed through congress, but others face an uphill fight.

Earlier in the day, thousands of people rallied in Mexico City to oppose Pena Nieto's plan to open the state-owned oil sector to profit-sharing contracts with private firms.

Leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told the rally that the proposal constitutes "treason" and "a filthy, shameless robbery." He vowed to block attempts for greater private sector involvement with "peaceful civic mobilization" and called for more protests later this month.

"This is an act of treason equal to or greater than that of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna," he said, referring to the 19th century Mexican president blamed for losing half the nation's territory to the United States by the end of the 1846-48 Mexican-American War.

Pena Nieto proposed the energy overhaul in August, saying state-owned oil monopoly Pemex has to offset falling production by exploiting shale gas and deep-water reserves and it needs foreign know-how and investment to do that.

Mexico expropriated foreign companies and nationalized its oil industry in 1938, and that move has been a popular symbol of national sovereignty ever since. Polls say a solid majority of Mexicans still oppose private or foreign investment in the industry even though oil production is down and easy-to-reach, shallow-water reserves are declining.

"They want to take away our natural resources, which is all that we have left," Maria Elena Chavez, a 58-year-old protester, said as she handed out copies of Mexico's constitution while wearing a white Pemex hard hat painted with the slogan "Pemex isn't for sale."

Like the tax changes, the oil reform requires changing the constitution.

Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party and the conservative National Action Party have enough votes combined to secure the two-thirds majority needed in the Senate to pass the plan. They could do the same with the support of a small, allied party in the Chamber of Deputies. The plan would then have to be approved by at least 17 of the country's 32 state legislatures.

 

1
Text Only
Nation & World
  • spt_flanagan.jpg Hometown favorite wants to win Boston Marathon, for Boston

    Shalane Flanagan grew up in nearby Marblehead with a reverence for the Boston Marathon and dreamed, like many locals and foreign runners alike, that she would win the race someday. Her goal has changed now.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_felumlee.jpg Ohio couple married 70 years die 15 hours apart

    A couple who held hands at breakfast every morning even after 70 years of marriage have died 15 hours apart.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_missingboymass.jpg Body found by highway is missing Massachusetts boy

    The body of a small boy apparently cast off the side of a highway has been confirmed as a missing 5-year-old, authorities said Saturday.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_mounteverest.jpg 13th body pulled from snow in Everest avalanche

    Search teams recovered a 13th body Saturday from the snow and ice covering a dangerous climbing pass on Mount Everest, where an avalanche a day earlier swept over a group of Sherpa guides in the deadliest disaster on the world's highest peak.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_malaysiaairlines.jpg Sub search for missing jet to be finished within a week

    A robotic submarine looking for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet is expected to finish searching a patch of the Indian Ocean seabed within a week after so far coming up empty, and the search area may be expanded after that, officials said Saturday.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_bostonofficerslain.jpg MIT honors officer slain after Boston Marathon bombings

    Like many other youngsters, Sean Collier wanted to be a police officer. Unlike most, he brought that dream to life — and then died doing it, becoming a central character in the gripping hunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_eyewitness.jpg Eyewitness testimony no longer a gold standard

    The American legal system offers few moments as dramatic as an eyewitness to a crime pointing his finger across a crowded courtroom at a defendant. The problem is that decades of studies show eyewitness testimony is right only about half the time.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • FEA - HB0121 - flu - 05 Second wave of milder flu hitting Northeast

    Months ago, the flu season seemed to be winding down. But health officials on Friday reported widespread flu-like illnesses in six states.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS - HB0525 - marijuana - JM -pic (4).jpg Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

    A college student eats more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumps to his death from a hotel balcony. A husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused candy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_skoreaferry.jpg Ferry captain arrested in South Korea disaster

    A prosecutor says the captain of the South Korean ferry that sank two days ago has been arrested.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium