We are witnessing a dizzying rise in unemployment numbers, we are also seeing social programmes being slowly whittled away, programmes which tend to the needs of the most disadvantaged in our society. Each successive budget cutback further undermines and endangers social cohesion. It now becomes more obvious than ever that what is needed is a range of specific measures which would contribute to a more fair and just society.
Personally, I believe that for social justice to be realised, there must be acknowledgement that the cornerstone of social policy is reinforcement of the mechanisms of wealth creation. In order to ensure social justice, it is essential to create companies and public administrations which are more competitive and capable of competing abroad, while not losing sight of the commitment to sustainable development, a fundamental requirement for developing advanced social policy.
I watch in dismay as some political parties and social agents seem to forget that wealth distribution, (i.e. an equitable and egalitarian society with quality social, educational and health services), cannot be achieved without placing particular stress on wealth creation. How true this platitude becomes given the dramatic economic situation of today!
A commitment to a competitive Euskadi, which from my vantage point must include economic and social cohesion, needs to be erected on a foundation of a mixed economy, that is, public and private, taking advantage of the virtues of self-government, as well as the Basque Economic Agreement with the Spanish Government. This 'mixed economy' would stimulate competitiveness in companies and would bring about continued development in science and technology, ultimately resulting in a society which boasts an excellent education system, and a high level of social cohesion.
We must attain greater levels of self-governance, not to set up insurmountable barriers, but rather to responsibly use our power to decide which policies would maintain social justice so that the Basque Region may continue being one of the areas of Spain with the smallest pay gap. Creating a community spirit with members of society would advance social welfare, whilst opening our doors wide to the world to co-operate on international social projects.
Here in Euskadi, we have a number of socially sensitive companies which could be the key to the development of our country's competitiveness. Clear indicators of what the competitive models of the future will look like include the vigour and vitality of the Basque co-operative movement, without comparison in the world I might add, the proliferation of these socially-minded companies, organisational models with the company at its base, and worker-participation in companies.
The policies of the Basque Government need to focus on reducing the income gap amongst its citizens. I believe that absolute equality is not only impossible, but, in fact, undesirable. Mao's famous axiom of "Equal pay for equal work" should be replaced by measures favouring a high level of fairness in terms of income differences. Additionally, stimulating business entrepreneurship and encouraging the involvement of companies in the community where they are located, along with a commitment to sustainable development in business projects, are all highly desirable and ought to be the focus of our effort.
If what we seek is a just and fair society, we then need to project a vision of a Basque society based on some of the traits it is traditionally known for, such as solidarity, communitarianism, entrepreneurship, hard work, etc. The key question, in my opinion, is the one put forward by Manu Robles Aranguiz, the former President of the Basque Trade Union (ELA/STV), "Socialism or Communitarianism?" Choosing the latter is even more compelling for our day.
In this battle for competitiveness and social cohesion, we must choose between the two: Socialism or Communitarianism. In a Community-minded society, people enjoy freedom of association, and not only are they are acknowledged for their contribution, they are also supportive of others, and participate actively in improving conditions for all members of the community. We need to transfer this spirit to all spheres of life: politics, society, culture, companies and the education system.
If we truly want to commit to a new model of economic development and of society, we then need to tap into the deep roots of the unique traits of Basque people. There are few societies with a tradition of solidarity of this type. In order to strengthen it, however, we need to transform the essence of our educational system to achieve this kind of behaviour.
Basque society must commit to this process of developing our competitiveness. If we indeed desire a more just society, may we, then, consider the whole system in its entirety. We need to demand of government, companies and trade unions a clear and decided commitment, but therein lies the pitfall to be avoided: each one of us must individually contribute to this process as well.
* Originally published in DEIA newspaper, 01/07/2012