AMLO insists Mexican economy strong, dismisses doubters

Mexico City (AFP) –


President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador insisted Monday the Mexican economy is strong as he completed 100 days in office, dismissing critics who warn a climate of uncertainty could weigh on growth.

"Fortunately, our economy is on the march. It's still growing slowly, but there's not the slightest sign of a recession, as our conservative opponents wish and as their economic analysts forecast, in bad faith," the president said in a speech.

The anti-establishment leftist won a landslide victory in Mexico's elections last year, and remains widely popular. But he has caused jitters in the business world with his vows to overhaul the country's "neoliberal" economic model.

The central bank slashed its economic growth forecast for 2019 last month by 0.6 percentage points, to between 1.1 and 2.1 percent, amid uncertainty over the new government's policies.

Lopez Obrador has notably caused investor concern by canceling a new $13-billion Mexico City airport backed by billionaire Carlos Slim and railing against the privatization of the energy sector undertaken by the previous administration.

The president, widely known as "AMLO," reiterated his promise to deliver an average of four-percent annual economic growth during his six-year term.

"We're aware that this objective has caused natural skepticism," he told a crowd of officials and invitees at the presidential palace in Mexico City.

"I accept the challenge, because both foreign and domestic investors are confident" in the Mexican economy, he said.

The "essence" of his economic plan, he said, is austerity and fighting corruption, which he estimated could lead to savings of $36.1 billion this year in the government budget.

"That means we will not need to change -- nor would we ever do so -- macroeconomic equilibrium," he said, indirectly referring to critics who have questioned where he will come up with the funds to pay for his expanded social spending.

Lopez Obrador remains hugely popular in a country fed up with corruption, inequality and violent crime. Nearly eight in 10 voters support him, according to one recent poll.

But critics accuse him of autocratic tendencies and a messianic vision of himself and the "transformation" he is promising for Mexico, Latin America's second-largest economy after Brazil.