Forgive me, but I like my country

I stand speechless and saddened as I hear the constant fear-mongering in the media and by some public personalities, as well as comments in the street regarding the bleak economic and social situation in Baskland. Unfortunately, it would seem that we have bought into a defeatist, doleful and destructive message, which from my point of view, is far from the truth of our current reality.

Naturally, I am pained and perplexed that some of our problems have worsened as a result of the economic crisis: Increasing social justice, erosion of social cohesion, as well as high unemployment rates, which although improving, remain unacceptably high. Additionally, more people find themselves in a situation of social exclusion (one need only analyse the recently published report by Caritas, a Catholic NGO), and we have certainly regressed in the creation of opportunities for society as a whole in terms of equality, and in other aspects. Evidently, there is still much work to be done. We cannot rest as long as there is one sole person living in social exclusion, let alone proclaim self-satisfaction with our socio-economic model while we are unable to create employment and opportunities for a decent life for all.

Sadly, I believe we have become imbued with excessive negativity, thanks to certain social players who, whilst systematically questioning the socio-economic progress in our society, offer no workable alternative to developing our country. Indeed, these players are strongly conditioned by the social alarm which is not being experienced with the same intensity in the Basque Region as it is in other regions.

Can we honestly say that ours is a society which is uncaring and unsupportive, and more unfair than other areas of Spain and Europe? How does the majority of Basque society feel about this? Would they agree that our situation does not favour sustainable human development?

We must neither forget the social problems I have mentioned above, nor should we begin to proclaim to the four winds just how great our socio-economic model is. Nonetheless, I am convinced that Basque society has full reason to feel proud of itself and turn the state of 'media-produced depression' around into one of hope for the future our country.

Without going into the necessary matter of advancing our national identity, I personally believe that over the last three decades we have made the best of what Basque self-government offers in order to generate a unique dynamic in support of the two vital vectors of socio-economic development, namely, 1) wealth creation in terms of competitiveness and human development, and, 2) the reduction of social inequality. Together, the consistency of these two key areas have been conducive to generating more effective dynamics of competitiveness than that of our neighbouring regions.

Can we not, therefore, be proud of our progress in fighting social inequality? Despite the enormous amount of work still to be done in this area, we must be aware that this indicator places us in one of the leading positions both in Europe and worldwide. This has been, and will be, the central focus of our public policies no matter what the latest fashion, or media pressure may be.

A society which is socially advanced must consolidate wealth creation as the central axis of development. Albeit with some hits and misses, our country has consistently searched for new areas of competitiveness with the participation of most socio-economic players. Nonetheless, and though it may sound like a platitude today (let us not forget the many voices who encouraged us to give up the industrial model in the '80s and '90s), the commitment to industry has been vital to advancing our competitive presence internationally, achieving effective income distribution, and also to promoting research and development, etc.

Basque society is heavily infused with community spirit, with the active participation of individuals and associations focused on improving the quality of life of its citizens, and ongoing, systematic development of efficient models of public-private collaboration. It is no accident that the Basque economy ranks high on the Human Development Index, one of the most reputable indicators of social cohesion in the world.

Regardless of which specific company modality is used, our business model, with employee participation playing a key role, contributes to better income distribution, the design of long-term competitive projects, and generates strong ties, both with society and the territory where it is rooted. It is a commitment to competitiveness which aims to develop business and the social vision of what the true role played by Companies is.

Today, we face new challenges which may threaten the future of our country. I would rather view those challenges as a field of opportunity to improve and bolster our socio-economic model. We need greater international presence of our business projects, we must strengthen our social policies by ensuring the sustainability of the welfare state and lastly, we need to come up with solutions to end social exclusion and the loss of equality of opportunity which is debilitating our country.

When I look to the future, I feel optimistic. With proven capacity to energetically deal with huge social challenges, I firmly believe that our society's positive and intelligent effort to take care of those who are most in need, will continue to move our country towards greater levels of social equality. Our generosity and inclusivity will do us proud.

Read the original article in El Economista (Spanish).

 

Sabin Azua

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