Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction: The Mayan Train to Propel Progress in Southeast Mexico
According to a United Nations agency forecast, the Mayan Train, one of the federal government’s flagship projects, will bring economic growth and poverty reduction to Mexico’s southeastern region. However, experts warn that the cost of development may be high.
The Mayan Train’s Development Potential
The Mayan Train, championed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration, is designed to interconnect major cities across the Yucatan Peninsula. Despite concerns over potential environmental damage, its potential for regional development and impact is often under-discussed.
Since the onset of its planning and construction phase in 2020, UN-Habitat has been analyzing the project’s potential influence on the southeast region’s social, economic, and environmental conditions. Spanning 1,554 kilometers, the Mayan Train is anticipated to be a significant source of employment and economic growth for an area once deemed neglected.
According to UN-Habitat’s presented figures, the transportation project is expected to create nearly one million new jobs in the region, with approximately 46 out of every 100 job-holders being indigenous people, as per their analysis. Economically, the project is projected to nearly double the region’s growth compared to scenarios without the train, valued around 2.1 trillion pesos (approximately 100 billion dollars).
The Mayan Train also projects to lift approximately 1.1 million inhabitants of southeastern Mexico out of poverty and increase the average level of education by two years in municipalities that will have train stations.
The UN agency responsible for the analysis developed a database with a total of 30 indicators for 268 municipalities in Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo—states involved in the project—to understand the pre-construction situation and forecast its future impact.
Railroad Projects and Development
Experts in railroad themes and plans agree that infrastructure projects like the Mayan Train can promote development in various dimensions in their constructed areas. David Camacho Alcocer, a railway engineering academic from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), stated to Sputnik, “The railroad generates development benefits that are being sought today in the southeast, which has been left behind in terms of railway connectivity.”
Railways not only increase access to services but also participation in the economy and advancement opportunities—provided the projects are meticulously planned, as they require significant investment.
Social and Cultural Development
Beyond economic benefits, the Mayan Train might also foster social and cultural development in one of the country’s poorest regions. Jaime Paredes Camacho, a UNAM railway consultant, highlighted that “Railroads always bring economic, social, and cultural development because they are not just about moving cargo and people; they are about moving ideas that can develop people and transform us.”
However, concerns remain about the ecological damages and social problems that could arise in local communities due to the development’s imposition. Ana Esther Ceceña, coordinator of the Latin American Geopolitics Observatory at the UNAM’s Institute for Economic Research, explained that a unique dynamic of development and progress, often not consensually imposed, could be complex for communities to process.
In sum, while there is consensus on the Mayan Train bringing progress to southeastern Mexico, balancing the benefits against the high costs of development remains a point of debate among experts and analysts alike.
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Article by Daniel García, correspondent in Mexico for Sputnik Mundo