Mr. Carlos Slim participated in Geneva Conferences, organized by the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
June 11, 2012. Geneva, Switzerland.

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Mr. Carlos Slim’s answers in the Geneva Conference, June 11, 2012

Question by a non-identified questioner

I have a family and that’s the most valuable wealth for me.
We in our family use to dine every single Monday; I have six sons and 19 grandsons; I have many friends since preparatory school days; I feel to be a very normal person. The rest is not important. 

Privileges count as responsibility and commitment.
We are convinced that privileges entail responsibility and commitment. Privileges can be professional, economical or political ones. Being a ruler, a scientist or a teacher are privileges, and their vocations count as responsibilities and commitments.


Question by a non-identified questioner

Legal reforms are needed to allow minor offenders purging condemns by free-on-bail social work.
Unfortunately, jails are full of innocent people who are imprisoned because being poor, not criminals. Since more than twenty years ago, we run a program for bailing out them. They are poor, incidental, non-violent first-offenders. Most of them are indigenous people.

Our usual procedure is delivering the authorities the bail frame to be filled by them in order to get inmates out of jail.

In order to get minor offenders purging their penalties by free-on-bail social work, many legal changes are needed, by instance ready oral trials. Getting minor offenders out of jail is easier when they are sentenced. Many of them are condemned to pay 400-500 dollars pledges but lack such a sum, so they remain in jail, which really function as “universities of crime”. Then they become dangerous criminals.

If they were judged by easier oral trials, they could get out of prison rapidly. That would be an ideal situation.

There would also be legal changes to separate minor offenders from dangerous ones. There are many imprisoned people because of drunk quarrels, some of them are indigenous unable to speak Spanish language, so they are unable to make their own cases. Sometimes the accused happen to be mutual friends and both of them go to jail.

In order to get minor offenders judged in freedom, not in jail, legal changes are also needed. Digital surveillance collars would be useful for having them under surveillance while judging them in freedom. Digital devices would be also useful for tracking people on parole.

On-probation offenders are forced to sign in tribunal once a week, an onerous duty which obstructs them in finding a job. These persons should be legally helped to get reintegrated to social life.

We help about 8,000 minor offenders each single year. It would be nice that they were judged in freedom and paying out their pledges once being sentenced without being incarcerated to avoid in-jail-spoils and family disruption.


Question by a non-identified person

Our programs have no financial caps.
Our programs are aimed to solving problems. The above mentioned program has many years functioning and it has no limits for persons in need.

We also finance and run several educational and health-care programs. By instance, we are making genomics research. By the way, when I was talking about technology and retirement age a few minutes ago, I mentioned that the abiding retirement age was settled up when average time-life period was 60-65 years old. Nowadays is about 80 years old or so; soon will be 90 years old.

Genomics is basic to extend time-life period. Our programs have no budgetary constraints.

When we decide running a program, we infuse it a sense of urgency and priority without financial limits. By instance, in 1995 we initiated a nutrition program for pregnant women, including prenatal care, child nutrition during the first two years (the time period when child’s brain grows four times), early education, child health-care, and high-quality modern and digital education. That’s the concept.

The nutrition part of that program was assumed by the Mexican government in 1995. The rest continues to be our responsibility. By instance, we run an extramural health-care program involving public health-care centers and surgeons working for free.

We contribute surgical materials, instruments and personal allowances. The program started by doing 2,000 operations a year.

Last year we made 170,000. That’s what I mean to say in stating that our programs have no financial limits, and that’s our working way.

Social programs, especially those of health-care and education, are very important.

Direct economic aid has a limited effect. The only effective way to overcome poverty is by forming human capital and providing good nutrition, health care, education, and jobs, jobs, and more jobs.

That’s our ultimate aim in overcoming poverty with dignity. We don’t assume that delivering one-hundred dollars a month to a family will take it out of poverty. There have been many charity and support programs through the years, but poverty keeps growing up. Health care, education and jobs stand for the real things.


Question by a non-identified person

The millennium goal: broadband universal access.
We started to operate the pre-paid mobile phone many years ago. In fact, we began to offer the pre-paid card in 1991; introducing the pre-paid mobile phone in 1995 during the “Tequila effect” crisis was easy. We named it “Gillette Plan” because you subsidize the phone apparatus and sell the card. That program has been universally adopted and been successful because it has allowed mobile-phone high penetration.

Last past year we accomplished 110 percent penetration in Latin America. If the 10-12 years old population is subtracted, the penetration rate gets bigger. But that’s only voice transmission, which is very important, yet not enough.

What we have to provide from now on is universal broadband access. In a joint effort with ITU’s Broadband Commission and UNESCO, we are committed to provide it before 2015 as a part of United Nations Millennium Goals.

We already have embraced a further step, which we are committed to accelerate, providing high-speed internet access through mobile phones. All of the mobile-phone users will have access to both receive and transmit high-speed information and data. In order to attain such a goal, telecom firms need to invest in upgrading infrastructure from 3G to the newer generation technology.

Smart phones will allow, by instance, health-care monitoring in rural communities by transmitting video and data through mobile-phone networks. That’s a Broadband Commission’s specific target.


Question by a non-identified person

We already have more than 300 million telecom service contracts.
We already provide more than 300 million telecom service contracts, including 240 million mobile phone ones. By the way, we already provide mobile-phone service to 21 million U.S. minority users, about 25 million fixed lines, and about 30 million internet connections. We also provide pay-tv. Many clients have access to several services, of course.


Question by a non-identified person

Providing connectivity to everybody is the important thing.
About 12 percent of mobile phones in Latin America are smart ones. Africa’s may be lesser, I guess. The proportion in the United States is more than 50 percent.

We should make sure that users having access only to voice service change to smart phones for obtaining increased benefits. That will be very important.

In making that transition, we should avoid offering an exclusive platform. Instead, all available platforms should be offered to provide the client all what he needs anytime at the best price and quality.

By instance, in Brazil we have a program to provide telecom service via satellite for about 22,000 remote communities. Places are where the optimal technology will be optic fiber, cable, coaxial, or cellular. The important aim is to have connected everybody.

Other users should have access through free public digital libraries. As I have said, we already provide that kind of access for navigating, training, chatting, and even taking lap tops on loan.


Question by a non-identified person

Knowing the civilizing change is very important.
The first reading about civilizing change I made was about 1968. Then I read Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock (1970).

Those understanding the civilizing change better are the Chinese. They are transitioning from a consumption rural society to a modern one being based on high technology and value-added industry. They are also transitioning from low-wage to a better remunerated and increasingly competitive labor force. In fact, they are becoming the world manufacturer by profiting from the commercial openness of the rest of the world and having a too-ample globalization concept.

The civilizing change concept seems to be not so clear for many people. I am afraid that many politicians and rulers are among them. I suggest going deeper into it. As I have said, Toffler’s Future Shock was published more than forty years ago, and he has addressed lectures along the whole world, so there’s been much talk about it. But conducting such a change will require introducing structural reforms and facing high political costs, mainly for the developed countries. Then, both politicians and common citizens of developed countries are required to deeply understanding such a change. Everybody fear not understood changes.

Fear comes from ignorance or unawareness of real things. Well-discerned fresh things don’t provoke fear. But if such a phenomenon provokes unemployment and social deterioration we will react against it, so introducing changes becomes arduous.

A major challenge is sustaining wellbeing politics. To cope with it, enlarging retirement age is needed, but some governments tend to diminish it. As I have said, weekly working hours should be reduced from 40 down to 35 hours or so.

Some needed changes in education, health care, trade and banking are being introduced by technological reality already. Other activities will follow by the force of things.

Technology change adoption by governments seems to be essential, even by postponing other changes. Governments should be able to conduct their trades through technology networks or e-government as it is called. That is an important challenge.

Educational and health-care services would be cheaper through digital networks. Building campuses would become redundant; keynote addresses would be lectured by the best teachers or those having the best didactic abilities. Both teachers and students would get benefited. There is the Grand Academy as an example. We should take advantage of all these emerging trends.

Another pressing task is adopting the best practices in all of the relevant fields. We in the Broadband Commission are looking for them by creating data bank storing the whole information of such practices in education, health care, finance, business, etc., and provide universal access to them.

By instance, software and applications for money transactions through mobile phone are already available. Users could make monetary transactions from place to place, from a bank account to another one, from a mobile phone to another one, and many trades more which are already being adopted by its own force.

Governments should be aware of the emerging job areas for the coming five or ten years in order to invest in them and begin to create the required new job posts. That’s the way to cope with the alarming news about increasingly high unemployment for the young. That is one of the real problems related to the civilizing change I am talking about.

During the first civilizing change, from the nomadic hordes to the sedentary groups in earthy paradises affording abundant food, fauna, flora and water, nobody would suggest: “Hey, we should continue to be nomadic, otherwise half of us could get unemployed.” Such a society was primitive and basic, yet those men could discern the benefits of settling themselves down in earthy paradises and then organizing themselves for labor.

Nowadays, society and economy have become very complex, and people have not attained a clear picture about ongoing changes and repercussions yet, above all how to cope with them. An employment solution has to do with working hour distribution. Lesser working time would save transportation time and pollution, while providing more family, study and leisure time, whose market will grow up.

Today’s best investment is fighting poverty. Those countries able to incorporate rural consumption people to modernity, market, education, urban life and waged jobs will strengthen themselves. China is doing that way by incorporating 30-40 million people to the market out of poverty and growing 8%-10% each single year.

Mexico, Brazil and other countries did a similar way from the 1930s to the late 1970s, when they transited from rural consumption to urban industrial life. From 1932 to 1982, Mexico grew up 6.2% each single year on the average.

Such are the referential transformation we should keep in mind nowadays. The European and American developed countries experienced such a transformation during the 19th Century. They transitioned from rural condition to industrial and urban life at an impressive pace. Such are the transformational processes we should replicate in the present civilization.


Question by a non-identified person

More efficiency in conducting energy.
The structural change I am talking about is a little bit different from the above described because the countries suffering much are the developed ones nowadays. The reason of which is that they have attained a bounteous welfare state which have become unsustainable through the years. As I have said, extending the retirement age would be an important change.

Another challenge is balancing the public deficit of the European countries, to say. They have three options: increasing public spending, diminishing public spending, and selling public assets. I think that the third option is the easiest and less costly one.

By instance, toll-free highways, airports and energy-producing utilities should be sold to private investors to invigorate economic activity which governments are already unable to do because of lack of financial power. By this way, governments could diminish public deficit and debt. That would be a structural change that I am talking about.

In respect to energy production there is a lot of opportunities to develop. Technology has a great role to play in introducing more energy efficiency. Universal energy access, energy efficiency and generation stand for fundamental goals. These are United Nations’ aims.

Many non-developed agricultural countries use biomass still, a huge and harmful energy waste. Firewood gets burnt within homes usually, provoking severe health damages to babies, boys and the whole family.

Technology could be useful in introducing needed changes. Big hydroelectric plants are a recipe for floods. Instead we could build many small ones having less flood potential for environmental care and more efficient energy production. Several medium-size hydroelectric plants are preferable to a big one.

Hydroelectric plants are very important because they are clean, healthy and cheap. Many Central America’s countries using thermoelectric plants could opt for hydroelectric ones to reduce economic and environmental costs.

Energy-producing technology can be used in two ways: by introducing efficiency in fuel consumption (carbon, oil, or gas), and by developing new technologies to use, by instance, tide power, which has not been exploited until now. Seas keep permanently in motion; technology could use its formidable energy.

I have seen natural-gas power plants able to doubling energy production. There already are natural-gas and power-moved hybrid automobiles. Battery technology is growing rapidly. You can see it in mobile phones. The first ones had huge short-living batteries. The newest have smallest long-enduring ones. Battery technology development is growing much.


Question by non-identified person

We should incorporate more people to the modern economy.
We should increase investment in housing and other areas. Since about ten years ago, I have dedicated my efforts to house building, real estate development and infrastructure. My interest is what private investors can do to enlarging both human and physical capital. By human capital I mean to say health care, education, culture and sports. By physical capital I mean to say far-reaching investment.

Nowadays, non-income, marginal, poor, not-modern people is cannon fodder for populist politicians. Aid programs are useful in helping these persons to survive, of course, especially when aid is directed to education and health care. But the important thing is to incorporate them to modernity and market economy.

Until recent times, poverty and social exclusion were seen as ethical and social problems. Nowadays they are economic challenges. We are seeing such changing view in China and other countries, which are incorporating poor people to the modern economy through education and labor opportunities. That’s what we should do, making investments to create many job posts.
Urban transformation is another big pending task. Along the twentieth century, cities became huge industrial areas. They have become obsolete nowadays. Industrial-urban areas should be transformed into service zones, which multiply job posts by seven or eight times, not only during the transitional period, but permanently.


Question by a non-identified person

Pension funds.
Employed worker’s main interest is having a good job, permanency, children education, health care and safe retirement. From a strict economic view, he should consume his entire income as it comes. In fact, that’s what he would to do. Yet he should save a part of his income by compulsory means through his employer or the state.

These savings should be deposited and capitalized, not charged as passive account, because it is meant to yield in the long term. So, savings are valuable to finance long-term investment projects.

By its own long-term nature, pension funds are able to be invested in infrastructure, urban and real estate projects, dynamic endeavors, guaranteed bonds and convertible debt. Pension funds investment should be long term.

Pension funds investment should be cautious and directed to an ample range of both “fixed” and “variable” yield values. By instance, when the financial market is bull, the variable investment should be low, and conversely, when the financial market is bear, variable investment should be high. So, pension funds management should be simple and prudent according to circumstances.

In my view, pension funds stand for the most powerful financing lever of infrastructure building for all of the countries.


Question by a non-identified person

An advice for a teen ager willing to create his own enterprise.
First of all, you should live and enjoy your own age, according to your own calling. I guess you are akin to business, according to your own question. I think we should live in our own age at every moment, while envisaging what it comes, according to our own vocation, doctor, businessman, trader, technologist or scientist.

If you want to make business, I recommend you saving a little money without giving up your proper trades, reading biographies and making small investments to understanding what investment is.

You should take your own time periods, enjoy your own age and don’t hurry taking the train on. You are traversing the love period. Don’t


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