In constant 2000 dollars, the World Bank reports, Mexican per-capita GDP was $7,758 in 1980. It inched upward to $8,661 in 2003. Over that period, Chile went from trailing to topping Mexico, with its figures rising from $4,620 to $9,706. Former laggard South Korea leapfrogged from $4,556 to $16,977.
In 1980, Mexico’s per-capita GDP was 34 percent of America’s. By 2003, it had slid to 24 percent. Concurrently, South Korea began behind Mexico, at 20 percent, and then outpaced it to achieve a per-capita GDP 48 percent of America’s.
Using Economist Intelligence Unit data, Saracho found that, between 1987 and 2004, manufacturing productivity grew 183.3 percent in Chile, 196.6 percent in South Korea, and 307.6 percent in China. Meanwhile, like a tequila-soaked worm, Mexico advanced 2.7 percent.
“China is eating Mexico’s lunch,” says CIS’s George Grayson. “If Mexico does not undertake major structural reforms of its economy, China will proceed to eat its breakfast and dinner, too.”
Registering a Mexican business takes 58 days, versus 48 in China, 27 in Chile, 22 in South Korea, and five here. During nearly two months of procedures, Mexican officials have numerous opportunities to encourage “tips” to speed things along. Mexico’s Private Sector Center for Economic Studies calculates that, in 2004, 34 percent of businesses paid “extra-official” sums to functionaries and parliamentarians totaling $11.2 billion. As the late Carlos Hank Gonzalez — Mexico City’s once-humble, eventually loaded, former mayor — put it: “Show me a politician who is poor, and I will show you a poor politician.”
Among 159 nations Transparency International surveyed last year, Mexico is the 65th most honest place to do business, tied with Ghana. While America is 17th (a pathetic showing, incidentally, for Earth’s leading economy), Chile and Japan tie for 21st, while South Korea and Italy tie for 40th. Businessmen in this poll perceive even Cuba, No. 59, as less corrupt than Mexico.
“As far as I know, only two countries are totally closed to for-profit foreign investment in exploration and production of oil and gas: Mexico and North Korea,” says former U.S. ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow, president of the San Diego-based Institute of the Americas. Pemex, Mexico’s debt-drenched state petroleum enterprise, chauvinistically prohibits outside capital, even as new drilling languishes. This restrains marginal oil revenue, even amid rising crude prices.
College-educated Mexicans want out. The Pew Hispanic Center last August discovered that 62 percent of Mexico’s best and brightest would leave for America if possible. Only 35 percent would remain. Of course, Mexicans, credentialed and otherwise, keep coming without permission. About 0.5 percent of Mexico’s population settles here annually. This is like 1.5 million Americans relocating to Canada every year.