Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Measure of state capacity

For as long as I can remember, the first advice given to anyone headed for Mexico was, "Don't drink the water." The capacity of the state didn't extend to purifying drinking water. Things might be changing. At least the expectations of the government are changing. Can you identify other ways in which the capacity of the Mexican state is changing?

Mexico City bets on tap water law
It’s a suggestion alien to Mexico City residents who have long shunned tap water in favor of the bottled kind and to the throngs of tourists who visit the city each year, bringing with them fears of “Montezuma’s Revenge.” But a law recently approved by Mexico City’s legislators will require all restaurants to install filters so they can offer patrons free, drinkable water that won’t lead to stomach problems and other ailments…

Bad tap water accounts in part for Mexico being the world’s top consumer of bottled water and — worse — soda, some 43 gallons per person a year…

Mexico City officials say 65,000 restaurants will have six months to install filters once the bill is signed later this month. Health inspectors will make periodic visits and impose $125 to $630 fines to those not complying…

Tourists still dread getting diarrhea from the microbes in untreated water. It’s a phenomenon so infamous, the bad water even starred in a “Sex and the City” movie, when Charlotte suffered the runny results of accidentally opening her mouth while showering in a Mexican resort.

Mexico City’s health secretary said 95 percent of the capital’s drinking water is clean, based on daily checks of chlorination at various treatment plants. But experts note that while Mexico City water leaves the plant in drinkable form, it travels through old underground pipes and dirty rooftop water tanks to the consumer…

Martinez-Robles estimates the bottled-water market in Mexico reached $5 billion in 2012, suggesting it will be hard to get Mexicans to change their habits and trust what comes out of their taps, even if it is filtered…

Legislator Jorge Gavino thought requiring restaurants to offer free water from the tap would help Mexicans downsize while saving money.

Luis Najar of Las Magaritas restaurant said installing an ultraviolet-light filter, visible to customers from behind the bar, has changed their drinking habits. More people ask for pitchers of water.

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