A Research Companion to Water Transitions around the Globe
Edited by Dave Huitema and Sander Meijerink
Chapter 5: Political and Economic Apertures and the Shifting State–Citizen Relationship: Reforming Mexico’s National Water Policy
Margaret Wilder 5.1 Introduction For nearly twenty years, national water policy has been a crucial yet little noticed crucible in which to examine the advance of democratization and political opening in Mexico. In December 1992 Mexico adopted sweeping changes to national water policy that presaged the possibility of a new state–citizen relationship. Mexico hosted the Fourth World Water Forum in 2006, and showcased its modernized water sector before thousands in attendance. The three key components of Mexico’s strategy – marketization, decentralization, and sustainability – were embedded in a broader context of political opening and economic restructuring. The new policy envisioned both a leaner and meaner role for the state while at the same time promising to institutionalize a new role for citizens as water users. Multiple and often conflicting agendas were built into the new water policy, which sought at once to make the water sector more efficient and more sustainable and more reflective of citizens’ needs while transferring the enormous financial burden of managing water systems to water users themselves (Wilder and Romero Lankao, 2006). Mexico has emerged as what one World Bank observer called a ‘successful new globalizer’ (Easter et al., 1998) while others see the national water reforms as either a mixed bag or an experiment that has failed in its fundamental objectives while further entrenching pre-existing inequalities (Barkin and Klooster, 2006; Moreno, 2006). The 2004 sustainability and decentralization modifications in particular have received very limited attention yet hold perhaps the most potential for transformative change if fully...
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