When Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) first proposed the ambitious construction of a tourist train that would cross through the southern states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Chiapas, Campeche and Tabasco, he said that 90 percent of the financing for the ambition project would come from private sector sources.

The remainder of the money, AMLO said, would be provided by the government.

But lack of private investor interest and ongoing warnings from environmentalists regarding the potential damage the 1,500-kilometer-long train could do to the fragile Yucatan ecosystem have brought his full-steam-ahead Tren Maya to a halt.

The president has now reversed course to rewrite the financing for his flagship infrastructure project, announcing that the Mexican government will now absorb 70 percent of the cost of the train’s construction.

In an interview with the financial day El Financiero published on Monday, Dec. 2, National Tourism Promotion Foundation (Fonatur) Director General Rogelio Jiménez Pons said that the 145.5 billion peso project would only receive a small financial input from private sector investors.

“For now, the plan is for the government to provide between 60 and 70 percent of the financing and for the rest to come out on its own,” Jiménez Pons said.

The Fonatur official said that the remaining 30 percent will mostly come from income generated by the train once it is operational.

Jiménez Pons said that the government foresees the train transporting 4 million tourists across southern and southeastern Mexico over the course of the next five years.

Days earlier, AMLO told reporters that much of the train’s costs will come from savings resulting from his fight on corruption and government austerity, which this year has amounted to 11 billion pesos, just 7.5 percent of the money needed to build the railroad system.

apenas 7.5 por ciento de los recursos necesarios para concluir el proyecto ferroviario.

By the same token, the new federal budget for 2020 allots just 2.5 billion pesos to the train’s construction, a drop of over 51 percent in real terms from the monies allocated to the project in 2019.

The residents of the communities that will be effected by the train’s construction are slated to vote later this month in a public referendum on whether they wish the project to continue.

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