|The Mega-city in Latin America (UNU, 1996, 282 pages)|
|8. Mexico City: No longer a leviathan?|
The recently observed tendency for the rate of population growth in Mexico City to slow, together with the spatial deconcentration of population and employment within the metropolitan area, is good news for national and local policy-makers. Many doomsday scenarios had been based on the expectation of housing, infrastructure, and services falling further behind the rapidly growing population. It now appears that the authorities may finally have a chance to catch up with these problems. There is much scope for improvement in living conditions for low-income residents in particular. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of policy in this area, for example, greater "rationalization" of land-tenure regularization, depends greatly on changes in the political system. Such changes are extremely difficult to predict, especially given the current volatility of Mexican politics. In addition, difficulties in financing and implementing projects will continue to be complicated further by the conflicts and overlaps between the city's two political jurisdictions. However, the PICCA programme, designed by the Comisión Metropolitana, offers evidence that these difficulties can be overcome once the political will has been mustered.
It is interesting that many of the changes in Mexico City and the national urban system have come about after a decade of severely constrained resources. During the 1980s, the country's efforts were more closely focused on international debt problems and macroeconomic policy than on metropolitan and regional goals. The economic liberalization undertaken by Mexico, however, has done more in less than a decade to further the goals of regional decentralization than any set of programmes devised for that purpose. In this irony Mexico is not alone; the same trends have been noted in other developing countries as well. As Gilbert (1993b: 733) points out: "The great paradox of polarisation reversal is that regional policy has contributed very little to it. Deconcentration has occurred in practice when regional planning was at its weakest."
While Mexico City will continue to face the tough problems of housing and service provision and environmental degradation, the evidence presented here suggests that in terms of settlement patterns the effects of continued liberalization are mostly benign. Now that NAFTA has been signed it is to be hoped that the effects of continued integration into the world economic system will work in the same direction.