Mexico’s Expected Next Minister of Economy Stresses Ambitious Social Welfare in Campus Talk

Graciela Márquez Colín, selected to the cabinet by fiery leftist president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was formerly a visiting professor at UChicago.

By Zeff Worley, Contributor

Graciela Márquez Colín, an academic and economist expected to be Mexico’s next minister of economy, spoke at an event hosted by UChicago’s Katz Center for Mexican Studies on Friday night. Márquez Colín, a Ph.D. in economic history, was a visiting professor at UChicago from 2010–2011 and taught at el Colegio de México prior to her cabinet selection by Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), a fiery leftist elected in a landslide victory earlier this year.

Márquez Colín stressed the implications that the slowdown of the Mexican economy in the 1980s would have for the future, leading to decades of stagnant or low growth. She demonstrated how Mexico’s economic growth consistently lagged behind or was even overtaken by its peers such as Thailand, South Korea, and Nigeria. She also pointed to high public debt as one of Mexico’s recent problems, stating that “the problem with Mexico” was that it borrowed money without increasing public investment, losing the chance for higher growth in the future.

Márquez Colín also discussed the importance of education and ambitious social welfare projects. Even though Mexico has around 30 million people under 30 years old, Márquez Colín said that these working-age Mexicans have trouble finding jobs and cannot save money for the future because, she thinks, they are unprepared for the workforce.

Young men between ages 15 and 30 are saddled with the highest murder rate of any age—victims are primarily those with secondary education or lower. Other young people are incarcerated, the majority being those with only primary or secondary schooling.

Márquez Colín hopes to revitalize the Mexican economy and reverse previous negative economic trends by emphasizing fiscal responsibility, job creation, reduction in violence, and an increase in private business investment. Her plan “Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro” (Youth Building the Future) aims to enter 2.6 million young people into universities and grant them scholarships of 5,000 to 6,000 pesos (about $245 to $295 USD) each, making it one of the largest social programs of its kind in the world.

Márquez Colín stressed the importance of some deregulation to increase private investment and grow small businesses. She also addressed concerns that Mexico’s government could not afford to both cut taxes and increase social program spending, stating that the current budget is almost complete and will be able to fund 25 projects.

Márquez Colín will assume her position as minister of economy on December 1.