#23. Mexico: from outside, from inside, dialectic of the gaze

stories • Published October, 2021

Mexico’s rank on the Happy Planet Index in 2019: #23. Explore the data.

By: Augusto Chacón

In 2019, Mexico ranked 23rd on the HPI – in 2013 it was the third highest. In 2020, the country saw a decline in life expectancy and its inhabitants went down a step on the ladder that leads to the best possible life; however, its ecological footprint did become a little smaller. 

The impact of the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic showed the fragility of the country’s health and social security systems, which are barely sustained for the minimum. It also revealed the precariousness of employment, more than half of which is registered in the informal economy. In addition, the irruption of COVID-19 took the country into an intense political trance, initiated in 2018, which had, and has, been reflected in the economy and, of course in people’s lives.

The government of the Republic did not establish special measures, fiscal, for example, to support those who lost their jobs or to shore up health services that were in full legal, budgetary, and operational restructuring. This emphasised major problems that Mexico has been facing for decades: inequality, increasing poverty and, recently, the public insecurity that has been eating away at it. 

Costa Rica’s constancy in the top position of the HPI is perhaps related to the social, economic, and political stability it enjoys, even though the indicators that feed the Index do not show such large differences with Mexico. 

For a nation that is used to the fickleness of economic indicators, always negative for the majority, the value of a tool like the HPI, for Mexico, is that it rings the alarm signal for the human dimension.

It points to the highest priority: people’s happiness, towards which the other signals of economic and political activity should point.

Creating Sustainable Wellbeing

To improve its ranking on the HPI, Mexico must address some issues as a priority. 

  • Raise the quality of education provided by the State; significantly improve health services, as well as the rest of public services, with an emphasis on vulnerable populations.
  • Establish development programs that go beyond welfare; with a high level of governance. The measures to be taken must be differentiated, from region to region, rural to urban, with a gender and ethnic focus, due to the diversity and plurality of the country. 
  • For economic activity to have an impact on the benefit of the many, and not only as a concentrator of wealth for a few, it is essential to underpin the rule of law, generate confidence in all economic agents, and have a progressive tax policy. 

It is also necessary to pay active attention to two cross-cutting issues according to international standards: climate change (care and conservation of natural resources) and the violence that afflicts the country. 

People always take care of the rest. The Happy Planet Index is proof that setbacks do not inhibit the good spirit to take control of personal and social destiny.

A resilient society – that is the basis for repairing what has been damaged. 

About the author

Augusto Chacón Benavides is the Executive Director of Jalisco Cómo Vamos since 2013. He has an M.A. in Literature of the 20th Century by the Universidad de Guadalajara.
He was the Director of the environmental non-profit Fundación Ecológica Selva Negra A.C. from 2002-2013, co-host of the radio programme “Así las cosas Jalisco” at W-Radio, and a radio commentator in Radio Metrópoli. Augusto Chacón is on the Board of several organizations: Arquimedios, Journal of the Archidiocese of Guadalajara, Mexicanos Primero Jalisco, Coplademun Guadalajara, and Marisa Foundation. 
Learn more about Jalsico Cómo Vamos here.

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