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Border folly

Trump’s ‘Great Wall’ promise may backfire even before he takes office

09th January 2017, 06:15 Hrs

Donald Trump is at it again. The election hacking issue smolders around him, his defiance of intelligence reports that Russia was responsible for hacking into emails and servers, turning the tide of the election in Trump’s favour is logical. Who would want to admit that they did not win fair and square? But even as that issue continues to get people talking, the matter of the ‘Great Wall’ has built up again.   
One of the big campaign promises by Donald Trump was that he would build a wall on the US-Mexico border to stop rampant illegal immigration. He also insisted that the cost of the wall would be borne by Mexico. The promise even turned into a call and response chant at rallies on the campaign trail and even on his victory tour. That promise itself was a tall one. Now, Trump says that the American taxpayer will bear the cost of building the wall, but also insists that, as promised, the US will be paid back by Mexico. In an interview with The New York Times, Trump insisted that their neighbours will pay, prompting a former Mexican president to tweet that there is no chance that Mexico will ever pay for the wall, expletives and all.   
Look at the numbers involved. The US-Mexico border is about 3,200 kilometres long. Half of that already has a fence, some rough terrain and natural barriers, leaving roughly 1,600 kilometres that needs to be walled. Estimates out of America claim that the cost of building that wall would be approximately 15-20 billion dollars, a much larger figure that Trump’s 8 billion. For Republicans, who were already incensed at the increase in domestic expenditure during the Obama administration, this may be a bitter pill to swallow. The Democrats are already up in arms at even the smallest mention of the fact that America will pay for the wall. To add to that, as recently as November, a poll showed that only about 38 percent of Americans want that wall to be built.   
Trump states that the taxpayer will only bear the initial cost. When America and Mexico meet to renegotiate terms of the North America Free Trade Agreement, he will find a way to make Mexico pay for the wall. But will that be possible? Sure, there are taxes that can be levied on remittances by American-based Mexicans to their families back in Mexico, but even that will not be a large figure and it remains to be seen whether Mexico will agree to that in the first place. What Trump might end up doing is hurting tourism around the border areas and Mexican-based business by Americans. The bottomline is that Trump, before even becoming the American president, has already waded knee deep into controversial waters.  

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