Reforms languish while overpaid, underworked lawmakers bicker
Jan 21st 2012 | MEXICO CITY
AFTER a fortnight of Christmas fiestas, Mexicans groggily returned to work two weeks ago. Or rather, most of them did. For the 500 deputies and 128 senators of the national Congress, the holidays roll on until February. Mexico’s lawmakers sit for only 195 days a year, the second-fewest among Latin America’s bigger countries. (Their $11,200-a-month pay, however, is the highest after Brazil’s.) When they do stir themselves to vote, it is more often to block rivals’ bills than to pass reforms.
Gridlock in the palace of San Lázaro partly explains why Felipe Calderón’s presidency, which ends in December, now looks like a six-year damp squib. Mr Calderón has identified many of Mexico’s bottlenecks. But most of his big proposals have floundered in Congress. A modest fiscal reform passed in 2007 was eased along only by an electoral law to help the opposition. Last year a competition law tentatively prodded the country’s mighty monopolies. But changes to the backward energy sector in 2008 were diluted beyond recognition. A reform of the political system has been similarly gutted and is yet to pass. And there is still no sign of a promised law to improve competition in telecoms.