“Democracy, even if you don’t like it”
By Manuel Guadarrama, courtesy of IMCO and El Sol del Mexico
Reviewing the constitutional text helps to keep track. Last week, the president declared that he did not like the Court’s ruling, in which the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) and the Federal Commission on Economic Competition (Cofece) were agreed to determine the wages of its officials. Although he said he did not know the justification and interpretation of the Supreme Court, the question is simple: there is a division of powers, autonomy, and counterweights.
Both the Inegi and the Cofece are autonomous bodies that have the obligation to establish their budget and the material resources they need for their operation, as established by the Constitution itself. This institutional design responds to the fact that the functions they perform are in the highest public interest.
The Inegi is in charge of producing, integrating and disseminating statistical information on the country’s population, economy and geography. It generates the data and measurements for Mexico. It goes without saying that what is not measured cannot be improved. A government that makes decisions without information is doomed to failure.
The Cofece is the body in charge of guaranteeing free competition and economic competition, as well as preventing, investigating and combating monopolistic practices and other restrictions on the efficient operation of markets. In short, economic competition promotes the well-being of Mexicans (the banner of the current administration). It allows consumers to have greater variety and quality in products and services, as well as more competitive prices.
Cofece and the regulation of economic competition are natural allies on the president’s agenda, regardless of whether or not he knows how it works. Like it or not, Mexico has a division of powers and has organs that are not ends in themselves, but what they regulate and protect are.
Especially now, the role of Cofece is essential. The COVID-19 pandemic generated or deepened disasters in the markets. As of today, economic activity in many sectors is stopped and in complete uncertainty about when they will function relatively normally. In this sense, there is consensus on the need to implement support for the population and businesses. Economic competition policy is an instrument for public supports to benefit those who really need it and to be the most beneficial for consumers.
For example, there is currently a strong demand for medical and health products and supplies. In the United Kingdom, the Cofece-like agency allowed supermarkets to temporarily share information about their inventory, sales hours and logistics in order to improve supply and the sector’s capacity to meet the demand of the population.
As a result of the global crisis, there will be attempts at anti-competitive practices by companies: unjustified increase in prices, low quality of services and a decrease in the options of products and services. Cofece is the authority in charge of ensuring that competition policy is strictly applied and that anti-competitive concentrations and practices that harm the population are avoided.
That an official does not like the way the Judicial Power provides for the existence of autonomous bodies or civil society organizations is irrelevant. Mexico is a democracy with a system of checks and balances, it is a Federation that does not end in a morning speech.
Manuel Guadarrama is government and finance coordinator at IMCO.