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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

AMLO Is Reducing Poverty in Mexico

Writer, playwright, and journalist Kurt Hackbarth is a naturalized Mexican citizen living in Oaxaca. His  political commentary is regularly featured in Sentido Común, Al Jazeera, and Jacobin. Every month we excerpt from his Jacobin article and edit for clarity and brevity.


AMLO Is Reducing Poverty in Mexico

On August 10, Mexicos National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL) released its much-awaited poverty measurements for 2022. Its findings outstripped the most optimistic forecasts: the multidimensional poverty rate in Mexico — a measurement of income plus a series of social rights such as food, housing, and education — fell 5.6 percent from 2018 to 2022; touching some 5.1 million people.

Moreover, inequality has decreased. The income gap between the top and lowest 10 percent of incomes is down from twenty-one times (2016) to fifteen times (2022). The divide between the lowest- and highest-income states has been narrowed by 20 percent — important in a country with a historic north/south divide. The rural/urban gap has also narrowed. What is more, the highest income gains have been for women and in the most precarious jobs, such as agriculture and the informal sector.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador acknowledges his supporters during the fifth-year celebration of the victory in the 2018 presidential election on July 1, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Hector Vivas / Getty Images)

But not everything in the CONEVAL report was rosy. Multidimensional extreme poverty measures changed little, due mainly to deficits in social rights (not income).


One key factor is poor access to health care where a decline was reported. The conclusion is not entirely fair. The survey measured people who were affiliated” with a particular health service — just as the AMLO administration is transitioning to a model where anyone can be seen in a public hospital, without needing affiliation. Many people likely answered “no” without being aware they could access the same — or better — services as before.


But the administration shouldn’t be let off the hook. After rushing to cancel the (admittedly flawed) Seguro Popular health program for the uninsured, it squandered 2019 botching the rollout of its replacement, INSABI; then during COVID in 2020–2021 it had to channel health budgets into hospital beds and vaccines. Late in the game, it appears to have found its footing with IMSS-Bienestar, which federalizes health services that had been decentralized by conservative governments of the past.


But this alphabet soup has been composed of clumsy workarounds designed to cope with those left out of the current system, instead of creating a genuinely universal program that assures access to care for everyone.


Despite the impressive gains of recent years, Mexico remains a country with 47 million poor and 85 million with deficits in at least one of the multidimensional categories. With the floor being that low, the easiest” part now lies behind. Ahead, México must continue to raise wages and support labor rights while attacking intransigent structural problems such as health care — something virtually impossible without a progressive tax reform, an untouchable third rail for MORENA up to now.


None of this should minimize the successes of the last five years. In the face of a pandemic, worldwide inflation, and supply chain shocks, Mexico is reducing poverty.