MEXICO CITY – Only 18.3 percent of Mexico’s 107 million people live without some lack of basic necessities or risk of slipping into poverty, the National Council for Evaluation of Social Development Policy, or Coneval, a decentralized government agency, said.
“Mexico is a clearly unequal country and has been so historically. There are very few people with a large amount of resources,” Coneval’s executive secretary, Gonzalo Hernandez Licona, told Efe.
Coneval found that only 19.5 million Mexicans have an adequate level of economic wellbeing and do not endure some form of privation in terms of housing and furnishings, food, income, health or education.
Estimates by financial analysts in 2008 indicated that 39 Mexican families controlled a fortune of $135 billion, equivalent to 13.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
The latest figures indicate that 47.2 million people in Mexico are below the poverty line and 35 million more are at risk of falling into the ranks of the poor.
The poverty threshold in Mexico is defined as 2,115 pesos ($168) of a month in household income.
Hernandez Licona said it is “very probable” that poverty levels will rise when the 2008-2010 period is examined. Between 1996 and 2006, the proportion of people living in poverty in Mexico fell from 68 percent to 42 percent, but between 2006 and 2008 it rose to 47 percent, he added.
The swelling of the ranks of the poor was due to a rise in food prices and the impact of the prelude to the global recession.
Social inequality above all affects groups vulnerable to discrimination, such as women and Indians. Among the latter, who officially account for roughly a tenth of the population, three out of four are poor.
Mexico’s indigenous people also are the ones who suffer from the worst quality of schooling, according to the Coneval chief, who said this means they have less of a chance to break the cycle of poverty.
“The problem is that in Mexico opportunities are not equally available to everyone,” Hernandez Licona said.
Referring to the fact that Mexican magnate Carlos Slim is now the world’s richest man, according to Forbes magazine, he said that is an indicator of the country’s inequality.
“We don’t doubt he has business acumen and intelligence, but it shows that most Mexicans do not have equal access to income,” he said.
Slim’s fortune is estimated at $53.5 billion, while Forbes’s list also includes nine other Mexicans, including fugitive drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman.
In total, those 10 individuals are worth $90 billion, just under 10 percent of Mexico’s GDP.
Hernandez Licona said that social programs have helped increase enrollment in basic education and led to a rise in the average height and weight of children, many of whom suffer from malnutrition in economically disadvantaged areas of the country.
But the lack of economic growth and job creation has prevented people from escaping poverty, he added.
“There have been advances (in terms of covering the basic needs) of the poorest, but a lot more must be done to bring about a society with equal opportunity for all,” Hernandez Licona said. EFE