On December 2, 2012 — the day after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took office — the nation passed a large series of reforms known as Pacto por Mexico. The ambitious, consensus-approved plan pledged to fund nearly 100 initiatives, several surrounding infrastructure and development.
One sweeping changes opened up the telecommunications and energy sectors, both of which had long been dominated by major players and were suffering from a lack of competition. Telecom reform defined access to broadband as a right for all Mexicans and allowed new companies to compete with América Móvil, the Carlos Slim-owned giant ruling the landscape. New regulations followed and led to a major boost in internet use throughout the country.
Dan Restrepo, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former principal advisor to President Barack Obama on issues related to Latin America, has already seen a transformation as the country’s telecom infrastructure has moved from the prior status quo to a more open and competitive landscape. “All the telecommunications costs were much higher [previously],” said Restrepo. “You both had accessibility problems — lower penetration — and you had higher costs. Both of those things are changing — and they’re changing pretty rapidly.”
The numbers tell the tale. Nearly two-thirds of Mexicans — more than 75 million people — used a mobile phone in 2015 compared to under half in 2010, with the majority of those expected to own a smartphone and be major data users by 2017, according to a Nearshore Americas whitepaper. With more companies and cables all over the country, Mexico also now has the third-highest internet connection speeds in Latin America after Uruguay and Chile, a development that has better positioned the nation to attract high-level IT work.
Improving roads and transportation has also been a key strategy for economic growth over the past decade. During former President Felipe Calderon’s administration, from 2006 through 2011, the nation built or refurbished nearly 20,000 kilometers (12,427 miles) of roads and highways, according to the U.K.-based publication World Highways.
That has only ramped up further since the introduction of the National Infrastructure Program (NIP) in 2014, a four-year, US $600 billion overhaul for transportation, communications networks, and urban development as well as energy, water, and tourism infrastructure.
“The program is the most ambitious ever launched in Mexico,” said a report from Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie, noting that “the development of infrastructure is a key element to increase the quality of life and, at the same time, an essential ingredient to achieve economic growth.”
Mexico City’s airport is also scheduled for a massive overhaul. The project, which may run up to US $13 billion, is expected to revolutionize the transportation landscape by putting Latin America’s largest airport in the capital. The new terminal, scheduled for completion in 2020, is expected to be able to handle 50 million passengers per year.
From the ports to the water ways and healthcare to energy, there is progress in almost every area. In the past, infrastructure complications in some sectors made working in Mexico more of a challenge. But modernization efforts have already had a major impact in pushing forward the nation — and there is only more to come in the years ahead.