By RICARDO CASTILLO
There were two sides to the First Quarterly Report to the Nation delivered by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on Palm Sunday, April 5, in the empty and cavernous-looking main patio of the National Palace.
On the one hand, he delivered the same pep talk he’s been issuing on a daily basis during the now-three-month-long duration of the CoVid-19 pandemic.
“We will triumph because I am sure that soon, very soon, I will summon the people of Mexico to hug each other in the nation’s public squares, because we are going to go out on the streets again without fear to continue being the people of Mexico, dignified and happy, to continue to be free, prosperous, fraternal and humane!” he said. “Viva Mexico!”
On the other hand, the president was mum in answering the demands made to him on Thursday, April 2, by a group of business organizations leaders, who were expecting him to present at least a glimmer of hope of bringing about tax payment deferral over the next six months and the perks they requested to reactivate the Mexican economy, mainly the survival of small businesses, which are the economy’s largest employers. Nothing, nada.
There is no question that the immediate reaction from business leaders, beyond the expected disappointment, was not one of despair either. Members of different organizations have a new appointment with AMLO at the National Palace on April 15 in what is being called “an open conversation” to make the president budge from his now-seemingly unmovable stance that business will pay their taxes on time and that’s that.
What the business leaders are asking for is nothing more than cash flow financing funds to revive the economy after the Covid-19 blows. but it was clear from the speech that AMLO is only willing to finance small business through small loans and he plans to continue full steam ahead with his regional development programs. About the only good news for entrepreneurs was “taxes will not go up.”
The president did announce programs to create new jobs, mainly in the collapsed home construction industry, keep fuel prices down, speed up Value Added Tax returns, lower wages for government officials, cancel their Christmas bonus, continue construction of the Santa Lucía airport, the Dos Bocas refinery and the development of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec industrial corridor, as well as the connecting touristic Maya Train, and so forth, namely, his ongoing government programs.
But for now, surely the main objective to get out of the coronavirus quagmire Mexico is getting into and get back to normal as soon as possible.
Most definitely, the dialogue with the nation’s business, industrial and commercial leadership is bound to continue- It would not be politically wise to not do so- But as of now, AMLO seems unbending to their demands.
AMLO knows, however, that in sound politic,s the name of the game is flexibility.