Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Banking lesson

I visited the bank yesterday and discovered I did not have the correct bank card with me to withdraw money from the automatic cajero. No problem. I went inside located a withdrawal slip, stood in line, presented the slip to the teller and expected to be handed 5,000 pesos. Nope. He stamped the slip, made a flourish of signing it and then motioned me towards the client assistants to one side of the office.

This step entails another line of course. Nevermind. Eventually I was seated in front of a bank officer, who promptly handed me another form to fill out. This one was longer and more complicated. I spent about 5 minutes or more doing my paper chores and handed the form over. Sorry, I signed it in the place where the bank official is supposed to sign. Do it again.

On the form there is a place to enter your passport number. I don't walk around with my passport because of the dire consequences of losing the thing. I do keep a high quality color copy of my passport and visa with me. When I was asked for my passport I handed over my color copy, wondering what would happen. I think because this particular bank official has dealt with me before she was amenable to accepting a color copy. After much computer entry time and examination of forms and documents I was finally cleared to go back to the teller line. At this point I had the presence of mind to ask the official if all this paperwork had something to do with the amount of the withdrawdral. Bingo -- it seems 5,000 is some kind of demarcation. I have to check this more thoroughly, but next time I will only ask for 4,999 and see what transpires.

At the teller window my simple withdrawal request meant another flurry of paperwork, computer entry, stamps, and form signing. Whew, all I wanted to do was pay my phone and electric bill and buy some groceries. The entire process I just described probably took at least 1/2 hour or more.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Finally, some clarity on the Mexican immigration issue

The following paragraphs are excerpts from a thoughtful Houston Post article that should be required reading for all Americans, Mexicans, and Canadians that are part of the NAFTA agreement:

Unlike their NAFTA counterparts, the architects of the European Union
understood that economic integration of unequal partners was
unsustainable, since workers would migrate from the poorer to the
richer countries. Thus, when Greece, Spain and Portugal joined their
more developed neighbors in an expanded European Economic Community,
the member countries created an ambitious Regional Development Program
to help improve the education and infrastructure of the newest (and
poorest) entrants.

NAFTA governments must do the same. Undocumented, treacherous and
divisive migration is not going to disappear, regardless of the height
of the walls that we build. Unless NAFTA governments cooperate and
begin to address the deficiencies of Mexico's public infrastructure —
everything from roads and schools to sanitation, water and power —
these elements will continue to hinder the development of not only the
country but also the 1.2 million Mexicans who enter the Mexican job
market each year.

The time has come to explore the creation of a North American Regional
Development Fund to help spur economic development. Such an entity,
funded by contributions from all three countries, would provide needed
infrastructure development (including education and worker training) in
the poorest regions of the North American continent.

Historically, the U.S. government has ignored issues of Mexican
poverty. Our annual foreign aid of $30 million to Mexico represents
only one-fifth of the total investment we make in Bolivia. The greatest
source of U.S. foreign aid to Mexico comes from Mexicans themselves:
the $24 billion in remittances returned home by Mexicans working in the
United States. Eliminating these funds (a possible outcome under some
of the draconian immigration policies being debated in our election
year) would collapse the Mexican economy.

The economic contraction in the USA is being felt down here in Mexico. Tourism is off and many parts of the Mexican economy are feeling the effects of smaller remittances.