Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Passport Series: Focusing on extending economic equality in Mexico

There is a poplar saying in Mexico, "El que quiera pescado que se moje el culo", which roughly translates to "whoever wants to fish must get their butt wet". This insight-- that wanting, or dreaming, isn't enough, one has to put forth effort and be willing to be uncomfortable and work hard to achieve something-- is deeply ingrained in the Mexican ethos. But, for many mexicans, the problem isn't getting their butt's wet, it's that there are no fish. 

The recent elections in Mexico highlighted the key issues facing the country: growing inequality, a soft economy and instability as a result of drug-related violence. While the murder rate is lower than several other countries in the region, specifically Brazil, Honduras and Venezuela, violence and a lack of security loom over Mexico. 

For the last six years, President of Mexico, Filipe Calderon, a member of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) party has lead a military assault on criminal cartels, but insecurity remains. On Sunday, Enrique Peña Nieto-- from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) party, who vowed to defeat organized crime during his campaign-- was elected President. 

While combating the existing organized crime is an arduous and critical task, prevention will require addressing key social and economic conditions. Gerardo Esquivel, adviser to the World Bank and OECD, believes the three key areas for improvement are, "First, re-establish economic growth at a sustainable and higher level. Next, combat poverty, in which we've seen very poor results over recent years. And third, create greater employment opportunities, in particular for the young."

When Time magazine asked Peña about his presidential priorities he said, "Mexico urgently needs a series of structural reforms that will detonate its true economic potential for once and generate more public welfare.” Sounds good, but only time will tell.

As Mexico transitions its leadership from one party to the next, we are focusing on forging new partnerships that will promote sustainable economic wealth-- so women like these in the Las Dos  Palmitas can continue to grow their businesses and focus on improving their futures.

The deep inequality in Mexico has cut a deep scar between the socio-economic groups. We are working towards helping relieve the opportunity exclusion, by connecting people and extending opportunities. 

Our partners and fellows play a key role in finding, verifying and administering the loans. We often
call our Kiva Fellows the "eyes and ears" of our organization because they are the ones on the ground who are able to get a sense for the needs, potential problems and pinpoint the successes in a direct way. Nevertheless, as Kiva Fellow, Emmanuel M. von Arx, points out in his Fellows Blog post " The Heart of Kiva", the staff at the local microfinance institutions play a critical-- and often under-recognized-- role.

Rosa Gonzalez, a translator for our partner FRAC shares her experience meeting borrowers and traveling around the country. When asked about her work she replied "I am a romantic person. Though I know that nothing can be perfect, I love feeling I am doing something to keep this world in balance. That is why I am pleased to work at an organization that makes a difference.”

We couldn't agree more. We are proud to support the conscious endeavors of our borrowers and the staff members of our local partners as they work toward a better future for themselves, their families, and Mexico.

This is the final post of a three-part series taking a deep-dive look at Mexico, its history with microfinance, Kiva's role in expanding opportunities for Mexicans, and what it's like to participate in the country's economy as a borrower, lender and field worker.

Questions? Comments? Email us at blog@kiva.org.

photos courtesy of : Bread for the World, and Mike Brice