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The habit of being in default

Local and state governments owe millions to Mexico's Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) – and the problem begins when local administrations are allowed to evade their obligations
The habit of being in default
File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
02/04/2018
08:55
Mexico City
Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL
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Most people in Mexico learned about the highest peak of fuel theft in 2017, when the estimated cost of this crime was set in over MXN$30 billion, a loss which – one way or another – ends up being paid from the pockets of all Mexican citizens.

Now, EL UNIVERSAL publishes that electricity theft and bills owed to the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) are equal to 2.5 times the losses registered by state-owned oil company PEMEX at the hands of fuel thieves.

This isn't surprising, as electricity theft is a very old, and illegal, practice, whether by tampering the meter or installing illegal power outlets – used by the millions of street vendors who have set up shop in the streets of our cities, or by the inhabitants of irregular settlements. It's a problem that we constantly hear will be resolved yet the situation fails to improve.

What is surprising is that adding to the delinquency rate of thousands of individuals, we can now also include that of local and state governments. Data published in this newspaper today show that, for instance, the debt of the municipality of Texcoco rises to MXN$579 million – higher than that of the State of Mexico government, which owes MXN$109 million to the CFE.

Overall, since 1994 to date, there are 6.9 billion clients who have overdue electricity bills.

The total amount the CFE is owed is equal to MXN$76 billion – MXN$ 40 billion from electricity theft and MXN$ 36.3 billion in overdue bills.

The habit of not paying for utilities and services is a problem that prevents the development of better public services and that even stops banks from offering lower credit rates.

Many have claimed the prices of electricity and fuel are similar to the prices paid in other countries yet the wages of millions of Mexican aren't comparable. And for all who cannot afford to pay said prices with their salaries, there should be differentiated payments or some kind of economic assistance.

The problem begins when large companies or state governments are allowed to evade their obligations. The example of fulfilling one's obligations should first come from the local administrations and any penalty for being in default should be first imposed on them.

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