Vote of No-Confidence: An opportunity for growth

Only a few days ago, we witnessed the successful vote of no-confidence against the head of the Spanish Government, which resulted in the appointment of Mr. Pedro Sanchez as the new Prime Minister. The unsparing, decisive sentencing in The Gürtel Affair, marks the end of a jaded, corrupt political scenario. Instead of continuing to 'turn a blind-eye', the urgently needed overhaul hails the beginning of a fairer era, of a near zero-tolerance approach to such flagrant political corruption.

In a most implausible pact, political forces of a myriad of hues have come together to bid farewell to the ancien régime and replace it with a new framework for political dignity. Yet, seldom, if ever, have we seen a presidential candidate with such little content in his programme for government. I am not sure if there is an example anywhere in the world of an incumbent state leader, who is not only devoid of policy on important political, social and territorial issues, but who is also willing to implement budgetary proposals which he himself has previously rejected.

Irrespective of whatever political analysis one may make of the process, I believe that here in Euskadi, we must view this new epoch as an opportunity for promoting the competitive model of the Basque Region. Obviously, reaching stable political agreements will be something of a challenge, nevertheless, it is worth seizing this unexpected opportunity to help the buds of economic recovery turn into blossoms. We should also use this time to draft more sophisticated policies in terms of wealth creation and reduction of social inequality.

I believe we ought to pressure the new administration to move on the issue of Catalan and Basque demands for the right to decide their own future. It should be the citizens of these respective nations who define their own sovereign framework. In the case of Euskadi, the first step is the full implementation of The Statute of Gernika (the document regulating Basque Regional Autonomy within Spain), which, years after its approval inexplicably remains pending, in addition to showing respect for the conclusions of The Basque Commission on Self-Government.

In my opinion, the development of our social and economic competencies in Self-Governance is key to the socio-economic progression of the Basque Region. It is worth remembering that amongst EU nations, Euskadi ranks as one of the lowest levels of inequality and highest levels of Human Development. Furthermore, in terms of the value of its social economy, it ranks as one of the highest in the world. The will to decide our own future is evidently a highly political issue, yet, nonetheless it is characterised by a deep desire to advance the social welfare of all our people.

One of the major shortfalls of successive Spanish Governments, (and not only that of Mr. Rajoy), has been the failure to place industrial development and transformation squarely at the forefront of economic policy. Instead, an overemphasis on sectors such as tourism, construction and finance has resulted in precious little time being devoted to drafting a serious, fruitful industrial policy, which would lead to job and wealth creation, and which would have the capacity to further Research and Development throughout Spain.

Whoever finally takes the reins of government as a result of this process, must ensure that the design of a relevant industrial policy, tailored to our needs, becomes a priority. Increased competition from abroad, and advances in New Technologies and the appearance of more innovative business models generally, mean that we must adapt and update our public policy to strengthen the capacities of our industrial milieu.

It is essential in my view, to carry out a root and branch revision of certain political measures adopted, measures which I believe to be socially regressive and which undermine social justice and solidarity within Spain as a whole. Although my personal preference would be for the transfer of State powers to our own regional institutions, I believe that we should take advantage of the room for manoeuvre which the central government agreement on pensions affords us. More specifically, by actively participating in negotiations on The Toledo Pact, we can help enshrine a workable, fair and sustainable pension system for all.

This now, is the moment for a complete overhaul of The Labour Reform Law so as to make it work more efficiently and effectively for all. We need it to promote quality jobs, to both make strides in employment accessibility for marginalised groups, including young graduates, while ensuring the adequate distribution of wealth. Furthermore, it needs to narrow the pay gap, and in particular, achieve an even playing field for men and women in business. At its core, the best social policy is one which creates real employment opportunities for people, and along with a better legislative framework, improve working conditions which a revised labour law will accomplish by fostering talent throughout the whole economic system.

Regarding social welfare assistance, the Spanish Government should pilot across Spain the introduction of a minimum guaranteed income, such as that which was first pioneered in Euskadi and which has already been in place for decades. However, such a scheme should be rolled out in a flexible manner so that it may adapt to the changing employability conditions of people. Personally, I agree with The Nobel Prize-winner in Economics, Joseph Stiglitz on this matter when he states that, "'The Minimum Guaranteed Income' should be temporary in nature, and should be accompanied by employment incentives for recipients so that the financial assistance doesn't discourage them from finding work."

We need to open a new political setting of dialogue and consensus building so that businesses are more internationally competitive. To that end, we must place people at the very centre of our policy-making, and we must nurture our innate desire for a more just, compassionate society.

Read the original article in El Economista (Spanish).

Sabin Azua

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