Vicente Fox Quesada was President of Mexico from 2000-06, widely hailed for economic and political reform measures which included reducing inflation, strengthening the peso, balancing the budget and managing Mexico’s foreign debt stringently. Visiting Thiruvananthpuram recently, Fox spoke with B Sreejan about the current global economy, India’s position, Mexico’s drug mafia – and memories of pushing through much-needed reforms:
How would you analyse the current global economic situation?
Well, Europe and the US are badly hit by recession – their economies are almost stagnant. But the new engines of growth, such as India, China, Mexico and Chile, are not affected considerably. The seven Asian tigers are as active as ever. I’m not saying that we won’t be affected at all though. Cycles of slow growth follow cycles of expansion. The last 10-15 years witnessed a fabulous cycle of growth. Everyone reaped those benefits. It’s only natural that a period of slow growth should follow.
Are you optimistic about Mexico’s economy?
Yes. The incumbent government is going ahead with reforms. Our new president has the will and courage needed. The country is in the process of implementing energy, fiscal and labour reforms – if all goes well, growth may touch five percent.
I expect Mexico to be one of the leading engines that moves the world economy along with India. The third wave of economic reforms has been initiated. The focus now should be our service and knowledge industries. Mexico is the largest hub of manufacturing. Now we need to give a thrust to IT and education.
Your political career, from being Guanajunato’s governor in the 1990s when you brought transparency to governance and sought global markets for local produce, to being a President who restructured, was marked by reform. Please discuss some of your experiences?
Those were our first and second waves of reforms. The model of trading had changed and become local to global. I travelled to China, Hong Kong and Japan looking for markets for local produce. We could find these and we were able to compete globally. But all this is possible only in a free and open democracy. The mind fuels innovations and ideas only when it is free. Also, democracy prompts citizens to be more responsible to the nation while ensuring a better future for global tie-ups and growth. In 2000, i tried to move the centralised form of government in Mexico to democracy.
However, Mexico’s notorious drug mafias remain. How can these be tackled?
My opinion is that the production and consumption of drugs needs to be legalised. It is a case of using freedom with responsibility. Let every individual decide whether he wants to be addicted to drugs and kill himself – or use his life fruitfully.
Meanwhile, your neighbouring countries see vibrant Left movements. Could Mexico also be swept by a Left wave?
Whether it is socialism, communism or extreme centralism, the best ideology to follow is how to reduce poverty. A successful government needs to satisfy the needs of the people. Governments have to be extremely pragmatic. The creation of wealth is the duty of private individuals, not the government.
Finally, what do you see India’s global role as?
Well, the world is badly in need of leaders with vision. Steve Jobs has gone. In India, there are entrepreneurs and business leaders who demonstrate excellence. They are full of dynamism and commitment. India has a rich culture. Surely potential leaders can rise from India.