Mexican billionaire plugs agenda
— reported by the Houston Chronicle
Carlos Slim, the world’s third-richest man, posed in mid-March with three governors in a courtyard at a former colonial home for the poor in Guadalajara, Mexico. He smiled for television cameras.
Slim, who has amassed a $30 billion fortune building Latin America’s biggest telecommunications empire, has stepped aside from running companies to try to set the economic and social agenda for Mexico.
He’s been traveling the country by private jet in a campaign to persuade the next government to cut energy costs, rid the legal system of corruption and allow more private investment in roads, power plants and state oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.
Slim, 66, whose net worth is surpassed only by the fortunes of Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett, says such changes are needed to reverse economic stagnation in Mexico. Its economy is growing at about half the average pace of Latin America.
If Slim succeeds, Mexico will grow more quickly, create more jobs and be able to compete for investment and trade with rivals such as China, says James Barrineau of AllianceBernstein Holding in New York.
If the changes aren’t made, Mexico will lose ground to neighbors that are revamping their economies, such as Brazil, says Barrineau, 49, senior vice president responsible for Latin American economic research at AllianceBernstein, which manages $8 billion of debt from emerging markets, including Mexico.
That would mean Mexico would likely suffer through years of slow growth, rising unemployment and soaring debt, he says.