Fonatur Did Not Define the Feasibility or Social Risks of the Maya Train

By: Enrique Mendez and Arturo Sánchez Jiménez

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (Fonatur) started the Maya Train project in 2019 without having determined its social feasibility and without having a diagnosis that anticipates the possible effects and social risks that its construction and operation would cause, according to the Superior Auditor of the Federation (ASF, its initials in Spanish).

In the 2019 Report of the Result of the Superior Audit of the Public Account it states that the agency carried out seven audits of the Maya Train, in which after reviewing the exercise of more than 1,1 billion pesos, it concludes, among other points, that the destination of 156 million pesos, related to unjustified payments and contract awards must be clarified.

In these audits, the ASF recommends that Fonatur evaluate the replacement of the indigenous consultation and that it define a strategy for the purpose of guarantying that the project is profitable.

And it’s that, in its reviews, the Auditor found that the Fonatur “initiated administrative measures before consulting the indigenous population, since it did not inform them about the effects and risks, did not foresee care for the population that would be affected, in the social ambit, for its development. Additionally, the quasi-State agency did not accredit the social focus of the project, nor its contribution in matters of health, education and wellbeing in its host communities.”

To the auditing agency, in 2019 the Fonatur lacked the studies to determine the project’s social feasibility because it didn’t have the definite route of the Maya Train, nor of the location of the development poles along its route.

In one of the audits carried out on the project, the ASF made 20 recommendations to Fonatur related to the social effects of the project, among which is to implement the methodology for defining and promoting the social benefit that the development of the Maya Train Project will have its host communities.

In another review on the performance of the construction project, the ASF issued 13 recommendations, among which is to define a control mechanism for monitoring the investment, which includes the costs and benefits expected for each one of the sections of the train, as well as the profitability indicators of the Maya Train Project, through which it will be guaranteed that it’s profitable.

To the ASF, if the modifications in the project’s design continue –such as changes in the train’s route– or if there are delays in construction, “it could increase investment and there would be a risk that the State may not obtain the expected profitability for the project.”

———————————————————–

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada on Sunday, February 21, 2021. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2021/02/21/politica/004n1pol Schools for Chiapas is publishing this English interpretation with permission of the Chiapas Support Committee.