For our second installment we met up with Dr. Juan Carlos Moreno-Brid, Associate Director of the Mexican office of the United Nations’ CEPAL (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean–or ECLAC–in English), to discuss inequality and development policy in Mexico and the wider region.
Moreno-Brid has also just recently published a book, with colleague Jaime Ross, through Oxford University Press entitled “Development and Growth in the Mexican Economy: a historical perspective.” It’s now available in both English and Spanish.
In our interview, Moreno-Brid pins Mexico’s inequality ills largely on a lack of fiscal reform, which has been systematically blocked by elites. These established elites, who have an interest in resisting taxation, Moreno-Brid argues, assert that government spending is inefficient and ineffective. It’s a dynamic of control and distrust, he suggests, that can be traced back to Spanish colonization, and the 18th century Bourbon Reforms. Those reforms, while successful at increasing tax revenues, were aimed specifically at improving Spanish –not colonial– economic welfare and political life.
We’ve posted the edited transcript below.
In the first installment of our interview series, we met with Dr. Sergei Soares of Brazil’s Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), at his family home, in Brasilia.
In the interview, Soares answers our questions on the colonial roots of Brazilian inequality, describes current policy experiments, and gives controversial insight on future trends in urbanization and the state of the country’s infamous slums, or favelas.
Soares says several striking things.
One is that the reason Brazil is not an enormous Portuguese-speaking Haiti today is due largely to Napoleon’s invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in the early 19th century. This forced the Portuguese monarchy to flee to Brazil, and spurred a process of at least minimal local investment into what had previously been a purely extractive colonial backwater rife with tropical disease, fueled by an ‘expendable’-slave economy, and in which medicine, road construction and education had been explicitly outlawed.
Another striking point is that, today, despite stark appearances, and plenty of negative media attention, the phenomenon of super-dense, crime-ridden slums is actually a remnant of earlier development failures. In contrast, things are looking much brighter for Brazil’s poor, as medium-sized provincial cities are growing, and education and transfer payment programs are steadily improving.
Audio to be added shortly. For now, click here for access.