May 27, 2016

Mexico needs carbon and petrol tax, which revenues are all redistributed by a Universal Basic Income mechanism.

Mexico needs to align incentives on pollution

Sir, Jude Webber writes about the horrible pollution caused by the excessive number of cars in Mexico City (“Corruption and car fumes clog up the capital”, Notebook, May 26) and proposes that eliminating corruption in emission testing could be an important part of solving this. Fat chance! As a Venezuelan, I know that this is not a viable route.

Ms Webber writes: “Mexicans are snapping up cars as fast as the world’s seventh largest producer can churn them out . . . Domestic consumption is the engine of economic growth so there is no official incentive to dissuade people from buying Mexican-built cars and associated products such as petrol.”

That’s really not the case. You must build up the right political and economic incentives to correct for it. If Mexico imposed carbon tax, petrol tax and a strong traffic toll system, and made sure all the revenues from it were immediately returned to the economy by means of a universal basic income, you would face a different reality. Then you would have aligned the incentives for pollution control and the fight against climate change with the fight against inequality, and that makes for a very powerful alliance.

Standing in the way, besides initial protests from car owners, would be the redistribution profiteers who would miss a chance to make political and economic capital. Just as in Venezuela.

Published in FT