BEHIND THE SCENES
workings of any great organization have come to be known as it
infrastructure. While Mexico on the outside may seem to many to be just
another third world country, Mexico on the inside, behind the scenes, is
a different story.
administration of President Ernesto Zedillo continued the previous
administrations government's modernization of infrastructure and
services, de-regulation and development of more efficient transport
systems, with increased privatization of formerly government-owned
Mexico's highway network
is one of the most extensive in Latin America. Since 1989, more than
2,400 miles (4,000 kilometers) of new autopistas (four-lane toll
roads) have been built through government concessions to private
contractors. The 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) of government-owned
railroads in Mexico are currently being privatized through the sale of
50-year operating concessions.
Early in 1997, the Northeast Railroad,
Mexico's primary freight carrier, was privatized for $1.4 billion.
Another significant section, the Northwest Railroad, was privatized in
June 1997 for $400 million. Unfortunately, Mexicos extensive network
of passenger railroads tumbled into decline in the late 1980s, after
massive renovation and upgrading, due to lack of ridership.
Tampico and Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, are Mexico's two primary
seaports. Recognizing that the low productivity of Mexico's 79 ports
poses a threat to trade development, the government has steadily been
privatizing port operations to improve their efficiency.
A number of international
airlines serve Mexico, with direct or connecting flights from most major
cities in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Latin America.
Most Mexican regional capitals and resorts now have direct air service
to Mexico City or the United States. No longer do passengers have to
land in Mexico City and go through customs before landing at their
destination within Mexico. Airport privatization, based on the
successful experience with ports, has been underway for several years
with dramatic results.
Mexico has also taken significant steps to modernize its
telecommunications system. A key element was the privatization in 1990
of the national telephone company, Telefonos de Mexico (TELMEX), which
was sold to a consortium of Mexican investors, Southwestern Bell, and
France Telcom. This privatization has meant some fine improvements for
the Mexican telephone system. Fiber optic lines have been laid to towns
and villages that formerly had no telephone service, connecting more
Mexicans with each other.
In addition, eight
regional companies are providing cellular telephone service to various
parts of Mexico, resulting in a dramatic expansion of cellular telephone
users. Two larger communications satellites have been ordered to replace
the two now in use. The government has also opened the
telecommunications sector to greater foreign investment. Competition in
long-distance telecommunications service began in 1997, and competitors
quickly gained a 30 percent share of the market. Recently, AT&T
began service in Mexico.
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