Handing out goodies in exchange for political support has a long history in Mexico, but fortunately democratization has helped state institutions push back, at least a bit. The Wall Street Journal reports that a plan by Enrique Peña Nieto's government to hand out flat screen TVs backfired. Rather badly, in fact.
Mexico’s congressional audit office has ruled that a controversial government program to give away some 10 million flat-screen TV sets to the poor wasted an estimated $39 million of taxpayers’ money.
The audit found that some 339,000 of the televisions in President Enrique Peña Nieto’s nearly $1-billion program were defective. The subsidy program was aimed at helping the poor during the country’s 2015 switch from analog to digital signals for television
Around 12,200 television sets are missing altogether, the audit office said as part of a recently released wide-ranging review of government spending in 2015. Together with the defective sets, the office computed the probable loss to Mexico’s coffers at $39 million.
Doling out TVs is just an update on the practice of giving away consumer goods like washing machines during political campaigns. Plenty of mutual back scratching.
Yet the fact that the legislature is reporting and publicizing is meaningful. Corruption is deep in Mexico but horizontal accountability is not absent.