The different structural reforms are currently going through a legislative lockdown that has prevented the approval of secondary regulations in key matters such as energy, telecommunications as well as transparency. It is a fact that, in all cases, the implementation process will ultimately rely on local Congresses (whenever Constitutional changes or a need for harmonization in state judiciary frameworks are set as pending issues), political clients and, especially, all interests involved in each and every one of the aforementioned cases, a topic that is particularly relevant when talking about the energy reform. What can be expected after the resolution of such a complex process? What are the factors behind its delay?
It is obvious that the agenda had a lot of pending issues. Additionally, problems of technical and political management blocked those reforms sent by the Executive Power. As their technical complexity wasn’t enough, telecommunications and energy are surrounded by powerful stakeholders that have enabled a more intense discussion. By attempting to carry out so many reforms during the administration, the delay of secondary legislation can be a sign that the current government needs alternative short-term policies. Interest groups that did not have an influence or had it severely reduced during the legislative discussions may start to put pressure since negotiations are becoming increasingly complex.
Regardless of the content of these reforms, economic growth will determine whether they’re successful or not Although it is true that the impact of the reforms cannot be measured in the short-term, the problem relies is that the boost of this expected growth can turn into an attempt of stimulating the economy using public expenditure (the amount of 7.7 billion pesos that is expected for investment during the current administration is an illustrative example).
Each of the aforementioned projects was not properly defined and it remains to be seen if this spirit for reforms will be profitable. After secondary legislation takes place, the focus will be solely determined by election dates rather than Congressional timing. With the 2015 mid-term elections (which are seen as a launching pad for Presidential candidates three years later) around the corner, PRI will try to gain an absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies, something that ,17 years and six elections afterwards, the ruling party has not been able to attain. What is the bargaining chip? PAN refuses to approve the energy reform until PRI favors the electoral/political one, using the argument that the latter will enable transparent elections and would prevent Governors from getting involved in elections and, thereby, respecting the local autonomy.
The cases of Michoacán, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Sonora stand out as examples of the Constitutional controversies on education that the Executive Power presented given that the aforementioned states did not modify their respective legislation on the matter. Once the secondary legislation of the pending reforms is implemented, how can we be sure that the same thing will not happen with the major education reform in case the states need to harmonize some of its laws? Most of the times, if not always, local Congresses resist because they refuse to be controlled. The federal government has attempted to centralize power and impose itself up to a degree where opposition has ceased to be a political counterweight. It is time to see whether President Peña Nieto will keep on trying to impose himself or whether he will learn that after the reforming spirit has quelled, there will be obstacles that will hard to avoid.
At the end of the day, there are two clearly differentiated processes: on one hand, the dispute for issues of real interest, whether they may be economic or political. This has been the main source of the legislative delay and there is nothing to be done to accelerate it: only a resolution that will involve imposition or an agreement will achieve that goal. Once this process is over, implementation comes to the scene, and it should be noted that it is not assured by any means, as the states sued by the federal government on education matter have vehemently stated. The other process strictly sticks to the federal Executive Power: although there was a clear path regarding the need to implement several reforms, current evidence points out that it was due to a political vision rather than a full understanding of what reforms truly imply when real interest become affected. Meanwhile, the government has stayed focused on its purpose of shifting power towards the center but not so much on its idea of setting the economy in motion.