AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “SHAMEFUL” is the word that Mexican President Vicente Fox has used, seemingly without irony, to describe American proposals to build a fence along the two nations’ massive border. One might argue that the term is a better description of the corrupt, opportunity-stifling government Fox oversees, or that “ineffective” would be a better characterization of the border-wall idea. After all, it’s Fox’s country and its policies that compel millions of Mexicans to risk their lives fleeing north a force that no American barrier could ever thwart. True solutions to the immigration problem are neither within our borders nor under our exclusive control. It is time to refocus the debate where it belongs on making the leadership of Mexico accountable for Mexico’s under-performing economy. If Mexico were able to attain the growth rate of China, not only could you stop the immigration north, you could even reverse it, as happened briefly shortly after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. Economic stagnation in Mexico creates the momentum that drives the population to look for better opportunities elsewhere. Mexico should start by reforming its punishing tax system, which depresses growth and disproportionately hurts the poor. Mexico’s top tax rate of 33 percent kicks in at about $20,000 per year. The top U.S. rate is a little higher, but does not kick in until inc`ome reaches over $300,000 per year.`Put differently, the highest income-tax rate hits at the middle-class level in Mexico, but only at the upper-class level in the United States. Moreover, Mexican workers earning just $4,000 pay 10 percent of their income in federal taxes; those earning a little over $7,000 pay 25 percent. These relatively high rates, at low-income levels, prevent the emergence of a middle class. Mexican businesses face a dizzying array of regulations that have a crippling effect on job creation. It costs a firm an average of almost 20 months of wages to fire a worker, placing Mexico in the bottom 20 percent of the world, according to the World Bank, in terms of labor flexibility. Under this type of regime, the risk associated with starting a business is often prohibitive. Even worse, Mexico ranks in the bottom 30 percent of the world in terms of contract enforcement a fundamental building block of any economy. Mexico is the one country (besides the United States) where citizens once owned the subsurface rights to minerals. The state, however, took those rights away during the 1917 revolution. Mexico’s state-owned oil company, PEMEX, drills only a handful of wells every year 350 on average, compared to a U.S. average of about 24,000 a year. If the government re-established the mineral rights of the people, energy entrepreneurs from around the world would flock to Mexico, making deals with farmers and ranchers as they have been doing for 150 years in this country. Mexico might soon have reserves rivaling some Persian Gulf countries. Despite the advent of fair elections in Mexico in 2000, Mexico is not yet a fully functional democracy. A still cozy alliance between the business elite and the political class conspire to prevent the unwinding of destructive policies, which prevent the emergence of a bona-fide middle class, a prerequisite for true democracy. While Fox can characterize the building of a wall as a “shameful” initiative in democracy, he should be ashamed of not capitalizing further on the great opening in the Mexican political system in 2000. The Mexican elections this July had offered a unique window to let Mexicans living here transform Mexico for the good. For the first time in history, the 10 percent of the Mexican population living abroad would have had the opportunity to vote in the Mexican election. If a significant number of them did, they could easily decide the outcome of what most characterize as a close three-way race for president. Unfortunately, the Mexican government cut off registration to the July elections at Jan. 15, almost seven months before the vote. The result is that the Mexican vote abroad will be inconsequential. If the Mexican government really intended to provide a voice for its sizeable contingent living abroad, it should extend the deadline until at least June. The Mexican government has launched an extensive P.R. campaign to expose the plight of its people living here. Fair enough. Instead of a fractious debate about fences, time and resources should be spent now on convincing Mexico to extend its registration deadline and educating Mexicans here about what is really preventing Mexico from growing like China. With $15 billion in remittances to their home country, they have a real stake in the outcome. Bill Mundell is chairman and CEO of Vidyah Inc., a private educational company.