Oct 202016
 

Mexican market research firm Gabinete de Comunicación Estratégica polled 30,400 people across the country to compile its 10th annual survey of the most livable cities in Mexico. The survey was carried out by telephone between 30 June and 19 July this year. Respondents in Mexico’s 60 most populous municipalities and Mexico City’s 16 delegaciones were asked a series of questions related to quality of life and level of services provided in each city. [Given the sample size, at a confidence level of 95% the maximum expected error for each municipality was ±4.9%]

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The survey looked at numerous variables to quantify “quality of life”, including housing, schools, mobility, air pollution and employment. The survey also considered satisfaction with services, and satisfaction with the performance of the city’s mayor.

best-living-in-citiesFor quality of life, the top ranking city overall, for the second year running, was Mérida (Yucatán), which scored 77.6 points out of 100, followed by Saltillo (77), Aguascalientes (71.6), Colima (70.9) and Campeche (69.8). Monterrey came in 12th in the survey rankings (see table), while Guadalajara placed in the middle.

The four least livable cities in the study were Villahermosa (52.9), Naucalpan (51.3), Chilpancingo (49.8) and Ecatepec (48.8).

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Oct 032016
 

This proposal sounds a lot more 21st century than Trump’s plan for a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border. Will either proposal ever actually happen? Most likely not. But that does not prevent us from considering the former project one more than worthy of mention here.

Young Mexican architect Fernando Romero has long believed that “building bridges” is preferable to creating obstacles and that conventional boundaries “are just becoming symbolic limits.”Romero was named a “Global Leader of Tomorrow” at the World Economic Forum in 2002.

Masterplan for trans-border city. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)

Masterplan for trans-border city. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)

To illustrate his viewpoint, Romero recently released a master plan for a walkable, super-connected metropolis straddling the U.S.-Mexico border. More than a decade ago, Romero’s architecture firm proposed a tunnel-like “Bridging Museum” crossing the Mexico-U.S. border in the Rio Grande Valley. His more recent suggestion of a utopian border city, presented at the London Design Biennale, is far more ambitious and would take advantage of the concept of special economic zones (employed earlier this year by Mexico’s federal government to stimulate development in several southern states).

To read more about this exciting proposal, with numerous stunning images of what it might look like, see “Instead of Trump’s Wall, Why Not a Binational Border City?

For more about the U.S.-Mexico border zone, see these related Geo-Mexico posts:

Sep 232016
 

A study just released by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, Doing Business en México 2016, compares Mexico’s 32 states for the paperwork, time and costs associated with four major indicators: opening a new business, obtaining construction permits, registering industrial property rights and the resolution of commercial disputes.

The report concludes that the seven best states in which to do business are Aguascalientes, the State of Mexico, Colima, Puebla, Sinaloa, Guanajuato and Durango, all of which offer a better performance than the average for OECD high income countries.

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Overall ranking for Doing Business in Mexico 2016 (Source: Fig 1-2 of World Bank Report)

The three states that have advanced the most towards implementing international best practices since 2014 are Puebla, Jalisco and the State of México.

The map shows the rank order of states for doing business, from green (the best) to red (the lowest ranking). Unlike many maps of state-by-state performance, this map does not show any evidence for the north-south divide we have repeatedly commented on in the past.

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Sep 012016
 

Mexico’s famed Hidden Beach (Playa Escondida), aka as the Beach of Love (Playa del Amor), has reopened for limited tourism following a three month closure  for cleaning and restoration work.

The beach is on one of the small, uninhabited Marieta Islands, in the Marieta Islands National Park, off the west coast of Mexico, and relatively close to the resort of Puerto Vallarta. It is one of Mexico’s most beautiful small beaches, looking from the air (image) like an “eye to the sky”.

Playa Escondida. Source: Google Earth. Scale: The beach is about 30 m (100 ft) long.

Playa Escondida. Source: Google Earth. Scale: The beach is about 30 m (100 ft) long.

In earlier posts, we considered how Playa Escondida (“Hidden Beach”) was formed and also looked at the not inconsiderable downside to publicizing one of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches.

After a study by University of Guadalajara researchers found that local coral was dying and argued that the beach could support no more than 625 visitors a day (compared to the estimated 2500 who visit it on vacation days), federal authorities closed the beach and prohibited access while they considered how best to regulate future visits.

Mexico’s National Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) has now announced new regulations governing visits to the island and to the beach. It is limiting visitors to 116/day, well below the University of Guadalajara figure for carrying capacity of 625/day/.

In addition, no single group may have more than 15 members. No diving is allowed. Fins, face masks and snorkels are all prohibited. Visits have a strict time limit of 30 minutes. The beach, visted by more than 125,000 in 2015, will be completely closed two days each week for maintenance and monitoring.

Only time will tell if these measures will be sufficient to ensure that this particular gem of Mexico’s hundreds of amazing geosites will still be there for future generations to admire and appreciate.

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Aug 292016
 

State-owned Pemex currently has six oil refineries in Mexico, which process around 1.05 million barrels/day (b/d) of crude.

The company has now shelved plans to add a $10-billion refinery at Tula (Hidalgo) owing to doubts about its long-term viability. It does seem that it is unlikely to be needed since Mexico’s energy reforms have led to several private companies submitting proposals to build less expensive, modular “mini-refineries” in Mexico. Each of these mini-refineries is 80-90% smaller than any of the six giant Pemex refineries.

Planned new refineries. Credit: El Economista / Refmex.com.mx

Planned new refineries. Credit: El Economista / Refmex.com.mx

A consortium of U.S. firms, Refinerías Unidas de México (Refmex), plans to invest 11.6 billion dollars to build 9 mini-refineries, starting with a $1.5billion refinery in Campeche with the capacity to refine between 40,000 and 60,000 b/d. Construction would take between 18 and 30 months.

Other proposed locations (map) include Cadereyta (Nuevo León), Dos Bocas (Tabasco), Minatitlán (Veracruz), Lázaro Cárdenas (Michoacán), Manzanillo (Colima), Salina Cruz (Oaxaca), Tula (Hidalgo) and Tuxpan (Veracruz). Several of these locations are in the recently announced federal Special Economic Zones, which offer fiscal incentives to investors.

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Aug 082016
 

Acapulco is busy re-invigorating its tourist industry. In recent months, we’ve looked at the city’s improved public transit system known as Acabús and reported the news that Acapulco International Airport is getting a new, state-of-the-art, 18,800-square feet terminal building. The airport’s operator, Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro-Norte (GACN) says the 30-million-dollar terminal will be capable of handling 1.3 million passengers a year.

acapulco-bay-prob-public-domain

Now, Mexican firm Mundo Imperial, the tourist division of the vehicle financing firm Grupo Autofin, has announced a 1-billion-dollar Master Plan to help revitalize Acapulco, Mexico’s first jet set resort.

The plan aims to return the city to its former glory days by renovating the famed Mundo Imperial, Fairmont Princess and Pierre Marqués hotels, and adding several smaller boutique hotels and a medical center, as well as up-market homes and a high-end shopping plaza.

The project also includes an additional 700-room hotel, new tennis stadium, a hospitality training facility and an eco-adventure park. The plan, which will create around 10,000 jobs in total, will take five years to complete.

According to tourism officials, Acapulco’s reactivation as a tourist center is well under way. They claim that the port resort will host more than 40 major conferences this year, and that the city will be a port-of-call for more than 30 U.S. cruise ships.

Next year, Acapulco will once again host Mexico’s massive annual Tourism Fair, the Tianguis Turístico.

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Jul 282016
 

The latest report on poverty from the National Statistics Agency, INEGI, looks like good news for Mexico’s poorest people but, sadly, this is only a mirage, based on a change in the measurement methods used.

The 2015 edition of INEGI’s Survey of Socioeconomic Conditions showed an overall real increase of 11.9% in household earnings, with an increase of over 30% in some states. According to the report, Mexico’s poor are richer by a third compared to last year, a change that some politicians will no doubt claim is the direct result of their effective policies.

Social activists were stunned by the claims of poverty reduction and Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL), which measures poverty levels using INEGI’s data, said the changes by the statistics institute were not credible.

According to Jonathan Heath, an independent economic researcher in Mexico City, Inegi is claiming that the previous methods overestimated poverty levels, but the change in methodology, without public consultation, “raises suspicion.”

Quite apart from the misleadingly positive spin on numbers, the change in methodology makes it completely impossible to compare current poverty rates with the rates for previous years.

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Jul 252016
 

We drew attention a few years ago to the issue of Empty houses in Mexico, a problem due in part to on-going rural-urban migration, and in part to the construction of millions of new homes across Mexico. Thirty years ago, there were only 15 recognized metropolitan areas in Mexico, today there are 59.

Poor coordination between the various government departments responsible for housing, services and land development has led to some settlements being authorized even in areas where ownership was disputed or that lacked adequate access to highways or basic services.

Three years ago, a Mexico City news report entitled Desorden urbano dejó en el país millones de viviendas fantasmas claimed that as many as 4 million houses, many of them newly built, were standing empty. Other houses have been abandoned for a variety of reasons, ranging from the death of former owners, or owners moving to other areas, or being unable to keep up with mortgage and loan payments.

Infonavit Housing. Credit: Habitat D.F.

Infonavit Housing. Credit: Habitat D.F.

News reports claim that as many as 14 houses in a single street are abandoned in some areas, such as the Mineral de la Reforma district of the rapidly-growing city of Pachuca in the state of Hidalgo, causing problems for neighbors.

Now, the Mexican Workers’ Housing Fund, Infonavit, has set itself the target of reclaiming 30,000 abandoned houses this year. Infonavit has funded hundreds of developments with small, cookie-cutter houses, across Mexico. Members of Infonavit can access a series of housing-related mortgage products, to buy or remodel a new or existing home.

Starting last year, Infonavit began to rescue abandoned houses, renovate them and then auction them off to its members. Initial success was limited, with only about half of the repossessed homes being sold on, but in the first few months of this year, Infonavit has successfully sold off 92% of the first 3,000 houses it has recovered.

This year, Infonavit plans to auction off homes in Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Hidalgo and the State of México.

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Jul 142016
 

Mexico’s Business Coordination Council (Consejo Coordinador Empresarial, CCE) has launched a publicity drive to counter the disinformation and anti-Mexican rhetoric emerging in U.S. political campaigns. The details of the publicity drive remain unclear.

Juan Pablo Castañón, CCE’s president, says the aim is to emphasize the true strength and importance of good Mexico-U.S. relations. In particular, the NAFTA trade zone accounts for 15% of global trade, 28% of global GDP and 14% of FDI flows. Trade between the three partners has quadrupled since 1993 and exceeded a trillion dollars in 2015, half of which is attributable to U.S.-Mexico trade.

Mexico is the second most important destination for U.S. exports and the main market for exports from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Goods worth 500 million dollars cross the border daily.

According to Castañón, if U.S. politics puts a brake on this trade, more than six million U.S. workers could lose their jobs. Proposed tariffs on imports of flat screens and vehicles would raise prices significantly in the USA. In addition, 80% of avocados and 50% of tomatoes sold in the USA come from Mexico.

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Jul 112016
 

One year on from when we last reported on the desperate plight of Mexico’s “little sea cow”, the endangered vaquita marina, where are we now?

According to the World Wildlife Fund, “The vaquita is at the edge of extinction”. The latest population estimate suggests that the number of vaquita in the wild has fallen from about 100 in 2014 to just 60 today, despite a much-publicized ban on fishing in the main area where the little sea cows are found.

As we reported in Mexico’s “little sea cow” on the verge of extinction two years ago, the sea cow’s fate is inextricably tied to fishing for the (also endangered) totoaba, a fish in demand in China for its swim bladder, which is believed to have medicinal properties. Fishermen in Mexico’s Gulf of California (Sea of Cortés) are reported to have been offered more than $4,000 for a single totoaba bladder, which weighs only 500 grams. The price in China is reported to be between $10,000 and $20,000 each.

Map of sightings and acoustic detection spots. Adapted from North American Conservation Action Plan for the vaquita

Map of sightings and acoustic detection spots. Adapted from North American Conservation Action Plan for the vaquita

In April 2015, federal authorities imposed a two-year ban on gillnets and expanded the vaquita protection area to cover 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) of the upper Gulf of California . Some 600 gill nets (each of which can be up to # meters long) were seized by the Mexican Navy in 2015 (and 77 individuals detained), and navy personnel claim they are still confiscating nets every day.

The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) is trying to make a difference. Among the options being considered by Mexico’s Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) is assisted breeding, though a vaquita expert, Barbara Taylor of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is quoted in The Guardian as claiming that “We have no idea whether it is feasible to find, capture and maintain vaquitas in captivity much less whether they will reproduce. The uncertainties are large.” The World Wildlife Fund Mexico is currently opposed to such a strategy, given the very low number remaining.

Mexico has had conservation successes in the past, allowing the populations of other marine animals, including the Guadalupe fur seal and the northern elephant seal, to recover.

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