The tense relationship between Mexico’s business community and leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), the frontrunner for the July 1 presidential elections, has eased recently through the two sides finding common ground over an infrastructural mega-project – the new airport for Mexico City which will cost an estimated US$ 13.3 billion.
At a meeting with the CCE (Consejo Coordinador Empresarial) business association AMLO described the new airport as “viable and useful,” expressing himself willing to meet with businessmen “to see how we can finance it.”
“(The airport) enriches the vision of a modern Mexico with a future,” the Morena leader was quoted as saying.
Previously AMLO had been sympathetic to the academic and environmental objections to the future airport, especially its siting in the bed of what used to be Lake Texcoco, even describing the project as a “symbol of spendthrift corruption which I will not tolerate.”
Such remarks seemed to place him on a collision course with tycoon Carlos Slim, one of the richest men in the world who is keenly interested in financing and constructing the project.
“If he wants the airport, let him do it with his own money,” said AMLO but now the two men seem agreed on precisely that point – that the airport should be 100% private and not a mixed venture as envisioned by outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) so that the Morena leader would not need to spend a peso of public money. Nothing new to Mexico where almost half the airports are run by concessionaires who quote on the Stock Exchange.
Meanwhile the private sector as a whole supports the project as vital to the future of both exports and tourism.
Nevertheless, the site remains an issue to be resolved – AMLO would prefer to see the Air Force base of Santa Lucía (50 kilómetres to the north of the capital) transformed into Mexico City’s second airport.
The current project would see the future airport being constructed 70% by the private sector and 30% by the state with the new terminal quickly becoming self-financing according to Peña Nieto. But until recently López Obrador’s economic team did not see the airport as becoming so quickly viable.
A third complete built (with 40,000 workers active around the clock), the new airport would be one of the 10 biggest in the world, starting from a base of 70 million passengers.