Why Tycoons Are Costing Mexico
Bast, Andrew, Newsweek
Byline: Andrew Bast
Although few economies have shaken off the global crisis better than Mexico--the IMF has just boosted the country's growth forecast to 4.5 percent for this year--economists say it could be riding even higher if not for one thing: overpowering tycoons. Take Carlos Slim Helo, who's worth more than $60 billion and is now the richest man in the world. His vast network of companies constitutes 42 percent of the country's benchmark stock index, and his cellular-phone empire, America Movil, controls more than 70 percent of the domestic market. Along with a few other hugely powerful firms, like banker-retailer Ricardo Salinas Pliego's Grupo Salinas and the Azcarraga family's media empire, Slim's companies are delivering eye-popping gains. The problem, economists warn, is that such concentrations of wealth ultimately prove to be far more corrosive than constructive.
Monopolies are forcing Mexicans to pay a 40 percent premium for everyday goods and services, says President Felipe Calderon, whose draft legislation to increase competition is now stalled in the Senate. Mexico's top-heavy economy makes experts talk about the country "as if it has given up a few percentage points of GDP," says Raghuram Rajan, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. …