President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, saying 1989 will be the "beginning of a new era of growth," announced a series of economic moves designed to stimulate exports while keeping inflation in check.
Salinas, outlining his first economic initiative since taking office Dec. 1, said Monday he was extending for seven months the government's anti-inflation Economic Solidarity Pact with slight changes. The agreement enacted last year helped slash inflation from a monthly rate of 15.5 percent in January to 1.1 percent last month.Under the modified version of the pact, the government will gradually devalue the peso against the dollar, a move designed to make Mexican goods more competitive abroad.
Workers also will receive an 8-percent pay raise under the agreement, which was signed by leaders in business, agriculture and labor.
Bowing to pressure from the business community, the government also agreed to further cuts in public spending and slight adjustments in the government-controlled prices of certain goods. Prices for electricity and gasoline will remain unchanged.
The original Economic Solidarity Pact, signed Dec. 15, 1987 by former President Miguel de la Madrid and business, labor and agricultural leaders, froze wages and prices on public goods and services and fixed the value of the peso at 2,273 units to the U.S. dollar.
Salinas said that while combatting inflation remains a top priority, the first order of business would be to "renegotiate our foreign debt and fight against the flow of capital to the exterior."
Mexico, the developing world's second largest debtor nation after Brazil, currently pays some $10 billion a year - 5 percent of its gross domestic product - as interest on its $104 billion foreign debt. Officials estimate Mexico will need some $16 billion in debt servicing in 1989.
The Harvard-educated Salinas said his administration would continue on the economic course he outlined in his inauguration speech.
"The year 1989 will be a year of hope and the beginning of a new era of growth," he said.
Business Coordinating Council President Augustin F. Legorreta, who signed the new pact on behalf of the business community, said it is "necessary to make all efforts to fight inflation."
He urged the government to slash the budget deficit and public spending and privatize state-run industries. Mexico's private sector has blamed the excessive government spending and the budget deficit for inflation that skyrocketed to an annual rate of 179.8 percent in February.