Over the past six years in Mexico, 60,000 people have died in a drug war that has engulfed the international press. Leaders of drug cartel roam with seeming impunity, chalking fear into the territories they mark with mass graves, be-headings, extortion, and kidnappings. Just three years ago, American officials warned of the impending status of Mexico as a “failed state.” In fact, a public opinion poll conducted by Latinobarómetro revealed that 40 percent of Mexicans responded with the affirmative when asked if they or their family members had been the subject of crime in the past year.
In spite of the gloom, why is everyone so upbeat on the “The Rise ofMexico,” as an Economist headline noted?
In 2012, Mexico’s economy grew by 4 percent, in comparison to the Brazil – Latin America’s largest economy – which managed a meager growth of 0.9 percent. As the Economist further elaborated, Mexico has signed trade agreements with 44 countries, the most for any country in the world. It is already the third largest car manufacturer, and the world’s leader in exporting flat screen TVs. Current estimates point that by 2018, the United States will import more from Mexico than from any other nation in the world. (And this, of course, is aided by the 2,000 mile border that both countries share, which unlike Pakistan, they have put to good use through free trade agreements.)
And it doesn’t just come down to the economic factors at play. Mexico’s demographics make it more favorable to increased productivity, a reduced burden on pensions, and more. Consider this:
By 2030, the median age in China and Russia will be around 44, and Japan, this same number will hit upwards of 50! On Mexico’s end, the median age in 2030 will hover around 35. Moreover, this surge has been especially intensified by the growth of a robust middle class. What this means is that with the increase in the ranks of the middle class, there has been a decrease in dependency on the government to provide services such as healthcare for poor, benefits, and so forth —programs which take up a large share of a government’s budget.
In addition, for the past two decades, the Mexican government has put increased focus on family planning. As a Foreign Affairs story underscored, during the 1970s the typical Mexican family would include seven kids. Today, this same figure stands at around two kids, making it easier for mothers to seek work. And they have. Mexico’s labor force now includes more women than ever before: around 45 percent of Mexico’s women work outside there home, a fact made possible by a determined focus on family planning.
The success of Mexico also extends to the influence in politics, where the judiciary has questioned several contentious issues which in years past the government would get away with. One such example involves the judicial branch overturning a law passed by the legislators which would have limited a the television industry to two dominant networks. By striking down the law, the judiciary established its footprint as a check on the reins of the government.
Nevertheless, Mexico still faces some penchant problems: education, tax and energy reforms have yet to be implemented and levels of corruption are at an all time high. Crime and drug-trafficking continue unabated, and the government is at a loss in combating the never-ending cycle of violence spurred by the cartels.
For our concern, what is important to note is that both Mexico and Pakistan enjoy a score of similarities. When Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’ Neil coined the “Next-11″ economies, he included both Mexico and Pakistan as members.
Although Pakistan’s economy may be under stress, it features a similar cadre of indices to Mexico’s. For one, the Asia Development Bank predicts that Pakistan’s middle class is set to rise to about 70 million in the coming years. In addition, there are talks of increased trade with India, represented by ours granting them the “most favored nation” status. Pakistani politicians are also taking notice of family planning measures, which should in the coming years — if implemented successfully — increase the ranks of women in the labor market. Aside from this, Pakistan is now home to a largely free press, a youthful demographic, and not to mention, one of the world’s most activist judiciaries..
Lastly, Pakistan’s needs are quite similar to Mexico’s: tax, education, and energy reform, alongside curbing state-owned enterprises. That has been much discussed in the past, and progress on these fronts will only yield benefits for years to come.
While Mexico may still be a battlefield, it’s remarkable resiliency has marked a new rise in it’s outlook on the future. Pakistan can do the same.