Q What are the biggest challenges facing Mexico City?

A We need to grow more rapidly, as the potential that the city has is greater than the growth it is experiencing. Also, despite all the assets that the city has, it is important that we have a better-educated population and the best educational offering of the whole of Mexico. We have to take this forward to its very highest level of potential. It can be done, through the application of science and technology. And the third issue that we must resolve as a very important challenge is improvement in the quality of life, whose principal ingredients are security, transport and public spaces.

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Q What are your priorities as head of the city’s government?

A Other than the issues I have just commented on, we will have one of the highest levels of surveillance in the world. It will be like putting up a ‘ring of steel’ throughout the city. Within the next two years, we will have 8000 CCTV cameras. At the moment there are just 300.

Next, is the education system. We want the number of years spent at school to pass to 12 years on average. At the moment, it is 10 years. This is a goal for the whole administration. It is for 2012, because it is not possible before then as it involves so many people. More or less, we are talking about almost 200,000 youngsters who leave the educational system who we now want to continue studying.

In public transport, we have 200 kilometres (km) of metro and 20km of articulated buses, called Metrobus. The goal is to increase the metro to 220km and the articulated bus network to 243km. We will start the expansion next year and we must complete it by 2010.

And, in science and technology, we have 142 new patents every year, a number that is not adequate. The objective is to double this number of patents within the next two years.

Q If you had to choose between these goals, which would be your priority?

A Economic growth.

Q What level of growth would you like to have?

A If we believe in the figures from the federal government, then according to the National Institute for Statistics, Geography and Information, we barely have a growth rate of 1.5% on average per year. Therefore, in line with these figures, we want to have 3 to 3.5%. That is the goal.

Q By when would you like to achieve this goal?

A As soon as possible. I am not sure if we can do it during the next year. There are some matters that do not depend on us. It is important to make clear: Mexico City’s government has nothing to do with telecommunications, which is a key issue, nor with the airports, railways, the fiscal situation, taxes, that is federal. However, water is local. So, what we would like regarding these decisions is that the city gets involved in some way because, if it does not, we will move ahead very slowly.

Q How would you describe your relationship with the federal government?

A Our relationship with the federal government is unique. The position is the same as we said when we entered government: there must be a peaceful co-existence, which means that all the decisions that you take on a daily basis that involve federal authority must be taken. The decisions have to be very technical.

Regarding our political position, we try to separate it as much as possible from the everyday sphere of government. The federal government wants us to come to them and say “nothing happened on July 2, all is well”, which is impossible, because many difficult things have passed. Thus, we have to maintain a distance, but there does not have to be confrontation all the time.

Q Obviously, this relationship is important for foreign investors – they want stability and a clear framework.

A In the city, there are almost no important conflicts that we are not able to sort out. If you look at the conflicts in the city during the past eight months, there have been few. The government’s capability to resolve them is very good. Thus, the city’s standards of governability are pretty high, if you compare it with London or Paris.

Q Regarding the international airport, which is important for Mexico City, is the national government in charge of it?

A It is the national government, yes. What we are proposing is that there be a technical round table in which the city is represented. This is what the law says. We are not asking for something that the law does not say. And, ultimately, the federal government will have to accept this. In telecommunications, something similar is happening.

Q Does the city have the same ideas as the federal government for the international airport?

A There are different ideas. They want to put the new airport in the middle of Lake Texcoco. We say this does not make sense because it’s a lake. We do not want to let them do this. We want a system of airports: one in Mexico City, one in Toluca, perhaps another in Hidalgo, a state to the north of the city. Lake Texcoco is located in the state of Mexico, not the Federal District. The impact on Mexico City if the existing airport is closed is great, because almost 50,000 people from the city work there.

There is an important difference in all this: whether you accept that this is a decision that the federal government takes alone or if you believe in a solution that involves Mexico City and the states of Mexico, Hidalgo and Morelos. This is more complex but it is better. We have requested this round table, they have still not responded. I am not sure why.

Q When will Mexico City have a new airport? Is it important for the city’s economy?

A We don’t know when. A good airport will take five years. It is not possible to do it before then. It is crucial for the city. It is a key aspect. If you wish to be a more important city economically, the airport must work well. This decision is of great interest to us. Remember Atlanta, Miami, these were key points, key decisions. It is a decision of similar importance to the railways between New York and Boston.

Q What do you think of educational standards in the city?

A We have the best educational offering in Mexico. We have a world-class university in the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Thus, if Mexico City cannot achieve a high educational quality soon, then neither can the country. Today, what are we going to do? You have to create new incentives, because currently there are no incentives to make things better.

We are going to form a fund, together with private initiatives and the public institutions, so that we start to give prizes to the schools with the best performance. The public institutions always have the same number of students because we lack schools, therefore they are always full. In this way, it does not matter if they do better or worse. The private schools – of which there are some 4000 in the city – also have no incentive to improve because the demand is so great that although a school might be very bad, it will have many students. So, what should we do? One idea is if there is a fund to support the schools with the best performance, there is an immediate incentive for them to make an effort.

In the last examinations students between high school and university took, the average grade was six to seven. We can raise the average to eight. We do not need much to get there.

Q Does Mexico City suffer from a ‘brain drain’? Will it stop or continue?

A Yes, and it will continue.

Q It cannot be easy to reverse this?

A No, it is not. But we must start at some point, and now it is time to do it. The US and Canada are looking for bright people in Mexico in the financial sector and other important areas to work in corporations. Now it is time to call their attention. That is the first step.