Monday, March 23, 2015

Today's Mexico City Headlines: Crude reality

Bad economic news dominates this morning, as though the dailies are trying to stir up a sense of foreboding that hasn’t quite taken hold yet.
    Reforma leads with a snapshot of how the current oil crisis affects everyday life in typical towns, using the head “Municipalities experiencing an oil hangover.” The gloomy feature runs down cases of dashed hopes in oil towns such as Poza Rica in the state of Veracruz that just three years ago were living through the petroleum boom of 2010-2012. Now they’re facing crude reality.
    That pun (Reforma’s, by the way, not mine) runs even deeper, since “crudo” is also a word for “hungover.” With the oil industry depressed and workers laid off, hotels stand nearly empty or half-built, and taxi drivers are making half as much money for the same shifts.

Close to every driver across the nation suffers from another oil-related problem, according to El Universal’s lead head: “Nine out of 10 have been cheated at gasoline stations." The eye-catching figure comes from a telephone poll conducted by El U, in which people were asked simply if they thought they’d ever been shorted at a gas station via tampered-with or inaccurate meters. Ninety percent said yes.
    All the poll measures, obviously, is public perception, which is another word for hearsay. You can prove the moon landings never happened with surveys like this. It’s timed to raise interest in legislation (which most of the respondents had never heard of) working through Congress that’s meant to crack down on gas station fraud. But it's really just pandering.
    It was also unnecessary. Just a few days ago, El Universal gave coverage to a report by Profeco, the federal consumer protection agency, that revealed seven out of 10 gas stations inspected were guilty of funny business. That figure, plenty high, was the result of inspections by qualified experts. If Profeco has used El Universal’s methodology, its agents would have asked the station chiefs if they cheated, and come up with an impressive 100% clean rating.

The daily anesthetic drip to prepare the populace for the upcoming spending cuts came yesterday from Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray. It gets the No. 2 spot on Milenio’s and El Universal’s front pages. El Universal has this: “We have to prepare for unfavorable scenarios: Videgaray.”  Milenio’s version is more soothing: “We’ll spend less, but better: Videgaray.”
    In about a week, the Peña Nieto administration will deliver to Congress adjusted forecasts for such indicators as GDP and oil prices, which will serve as bases for the reduced spending plan. Let’s hope that rhetorical snippets like “spending less but better” will either be shelved or seen for what they are. Weren’t we spending the best we could before?

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