- Safe Democracy Foundation - http://english.safe-democracy.org -

The harmful convergence of politics in Spain

luismendezpppsoe.jpgIn spite of sustained macroeconomic growth, which was close to 4 percent in 2007 but not duly reflected in the majority of the population’s pockets, Spain continues to suffer from important production, competition and exportation shortages, among other problems. Neither the Socialist Party nor the Popular Party’s programs addresses the economic transformations that Spain urgently needs.

 

(From Madrid) LAMENTABLY, IN POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ASPECTS, the differences between the programs of the ruling Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and the opposing Popular Party (PP) are few. Certainly, they diverge clearly when it comes to planning the social modernization of the country, a task in which President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s team has an advantage over a political right that, in tune with the most reactionary sectors of Catholicism, has been tied up in such essential affairs as the legality of abortion, the speeding up of the divorce process, gay rights and genetic research.

AN UNFORTUNATE COINCIDENCE

Beyond these initiatives which, although not sufficient, seem important to me when it comes to exercising power from the State’s watchtower, I will attempt to underline the many electoral coincidences between those two Spanish parties that, depending on the public’s will, are destined to rule. It is a convergence which, in my opinion, responds more to pragmatism and electoral subjection than to ideological principles. “Property speculation, which is turning access to housing into an authentic crisis with new mortgages that are nearly prolonged until they are old, is not being fully addressed either”

Both programs exercise suspicious delicacy when dealing with some of the concerns that are most strongly felt in the Spanish air, such as job insecurity fueled by poor contract conditions and meager salaries that affect an important sector of the population. Property speculation, which is turning access to housing into an authentic crisis with new mortgages that are nearly prolonged until they are old, and that restrict the daily lives of those who sign them, is not being fully addressed either.

They preach even less about the inalienable right to a public health system that is slowly becoming privatized, above all in the autonomous communities ruled by the PP. And of course a much stronger alternative in the educational field is sorely missed, as Spain is one of the European countries that is furthest behind in this area, something that none of the majority parties has been able to solve, even though they have displayed more than one magic formula to cure it.

COMPETITION PROBLEMS AND A LACK OF R&D

Someone has acutely said that we are a rich country of poor families, the economist Martin Seco points out with sound judgment” Aside from these challenges which, on paper, are tackled in a tangential way at best, neither the Socialist Party nor the Popular Party’s programs addresses the economic transformations that Spain urgently needs. In spite of sustained macroeconomic growth, which was close to 4 percent in 2007 but not duly reflected in the majority of the population’s pockets, Spain continues to experience important production, competition and exportation shortages, among other problems. Investment in R&D is well below that of its European neighbors (3 percent). Furthermore, the fabulous foreign investments are, in the most part, capital (financial), and not technological investments, which shows an obvious vulnerability.

It is surprising that other weak spots in our economy that place us in a more delicate situation than that of the majority of countries are ignored: scarce productivity, the difference in inflation with respect to the Eurozone, the meager level of our exportations and, principally, the indebtedness of families, with fully compensates for the budgetary balance, just as it shows our foreign deficit, which, in relative terms, is the highest out of all of the OECD countries. Someone has acutely said that we are a rich country of poor families, the economist Martin Seco points out with sound judgment.

NO SOLUTION TO THE ETA PROBLEM

The terrorist problem, with all of its complexity, is not on the agenda either. The PSOE and the PP are carrying out a one-sided interpretation of the matter, and both defend the police and legal battle against ETA as the only alternative, ignoring the existing political conflict in the Basque Country and scorning the hundreds of millions of nationalist votes, both moderate and radical, that locally support a negotiated solution to the violence.

Conscious of the tension that the contentious Basque issue generates in the rest of Spain, and with the elections looming ahead, neither wants to risk more than it is safe to. The two big parties are banking on intransigence to not arouse suspicion among their constituents, despite the fact that the socialists, as well as the populists, have, in their time engaged in negotiations with ETA, a prior sedation of the same public opinion that is now being used as an alibi for rejecting dialog.

THE EU’s SUPPORT COMES TO AN END

It is also worrisome when, a few weeks away from the general election, Rodríguez Zapatero exudes tenacious optimism when he emphasizes that Spain has surpassed Italy in GDP distribution and predicts that it will also pass France in the upcoming years, treacherously omitting the fact that for years those two countries have helped strengthen the very foundation of the European Union (EU), while Spain has been receiving subsidies from it for its prodigious march forward. “The self-complacence that the PSOE and PP revel in when they recreate their own personalized version of the national scenario and exaggerate Spain’s foreign action, together with an unhealthy search for the political center, is hindering accountability, which is more than necessary”

It is no wonder then that Madrid’s boasting of such envious economic growth has generated more than one sarcastic comment from members of the community that, like Germany and the United Kingdom, have aided the consummation of the Iberian miracle with monetary contributions.

And then, there is even the public surplus that the socialist executive presumes needs to be downplayed, if we focus on the fact that this surplus is the consequence of the State’s inhibition more than of appropriate and generous management of resources.

It would only be appropriate to claim responsibility for that positive balance if social coverage in all of its fields were fully guaranteed. And that is not the case in Spain where, without having to refer to any public databases, it is known that the pensions and retirements of a population that continues to grow older are far below the average of the avant-garde Europe.

THE PARTIES, WITH NO ACCOUNTABILITY

The PSOE and the PP also coincide when it comes to elevating Spain on the international pedestal, despite the fact that it does not belong to the Group of Eight (G8), and is not habitually summoned to participate in the important European meetings that are held outside of the official schedule, like the recent mini-Summit in London, held under the auspices of the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and at which the great powers of the community were represented.

The self-complacence that the PSOE and PP revel in when they recreate their own personalized version of the national scenario and exaggerate Spain’s foreign action, together with an unhealthy search for the political center, is hindering the more than necessary accountability on the part of the two parties with the possibility of governing, and poorly influencing the process of laying out their respective electoral programs.