Tag Archives: recortes

Cuts and Cars

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The topic of cuts and savings at state level continues to rumble on. Zapatero managed to pass his ‘Big Scissor Plan’ by 169 votes to 168. But the future doesn’t look that bright for him with respect to the prospect of passing next year’s state budget.

El País published this interesting diagram about the size of the public administration along with an article in passionate defence of the civil service and public sector. Between them, they make the Spanish civil service not seem as giant and unwieldy as we have been led to believe. What neither of them do is explain how they did the sums, which is something I’d be interested to read about, given that teachers and doctors in the UK don’t count as civil servants, unlike Spain. The subtle point within the article is that Spain is normal and in no way different to other European states. It sits quite happily in the middle of the civil service league table.

In other related news, it’s pleasing to hear that Aguirre and Gallardón have at last got the scissors out. They’ve both cut down on their fleets of official cars: from 125 to 77 and 167 to 57 respectively. This should be one of the issues when the eyes of the nation are fixed on the public purse. Why on earth do Gallardón and Aguirre need so many cars? How can provincial mayors be paid more than the Prime Minister? I don’t doubt, as the article emphasises, that there are many ‘thousandamonthers’ who work in the town and city halls, but they are small fry. The big fish are still out there and unfortunately, due to the structure of the Spanish state, they continue to work like provincial barons, lording around the areas that they govern, deluding themselves into thinking they are lord and king of everything they see. What are 167 cars (including two armoured ones) if not a modern day armada, a small and loyal army to call upon whenever the baron feels fit?

As a brief comparison, last summer I worked behind the scenes at Birmingham city hall: how many official cars were the in the car park? Four.

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Scissors and Suits

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The Popular Party should have been delighted yesterday. Zapatero announced a drastic and severe plan to cut the national deficit in a bold and unexpected move, given that he has always rejected such action.

The measures are a combination of spending and salary cuts, mixed with the freezing of pensions that have been dubbed the ‘tijeretazo’ or ‘Giant Scissor Plan.’ The main victims are going to be the civil servants and public sector workers who are going to see their wages fall on average by 5% and frozen in 2011, along with the pensioners whose state pension will also be frozen at its current level. The cheques for each new baby will be shelved and general spending cuts in the public administration are planned, all of which will attempt to find €15 billion. Given the size of the civil service and public sector, which is around 20-25% of the active population, this is going to affect most families across Spain and the two main unions UGT and CC.OO. are already talking about strikes.

Why now? It’s clear that this is a knee-jerk reaction in response to the EU talks last weekend and the attacks on the Euro. Spain’s international economic credibility is low and Zapatero was left with no choice except to try and do everything possible to placate the shadowy gods of speculation.*

The problem is that these measures won’t address the fundamental issues at the heart of the civil service (its lack of productivity and the fact that it is too top-heavy) and the people consider it unfair for them to pay for a recession created by speculation and the construction bubble.

As for the leader of the opposition, he enjoyed his moment of severe criticism of the measures in the Spanish parliament yesterday. Rajoy continued to promote his delusional plan to save the Spanish economy through destroying the Ministry of Equality and eliminating the Third Deputy Prime Minister of the government. The Popular Party will only have the authority to criticise the government’s economic strategy when they apply their own philosophy to the public expenditure in their own Autonomous Communities. Practise what you preach.

Rajoy should have enjoyed the fact that the news story which was expected to make all of the headlines was pushed lower down the list because of the drastic economic adjustment plan. That particular news story was the reopening of the corruption case against Camps, the President of the Community of Valencia, for his acceptance of three suits. This is bad news for Camps. He, and the PP in general, had hoped that this particular case would be swept under the carpet so that they could continue to portray the Gürtel scandal as simply a few people and businesses who have taken advantage of the party. Camps is still at the heart of the scandal and despite his cries of innocence, there is evidence of the illegal financing of the Valencian PP.

Rajoy, nevertheless, continues to say that Camps is definitely the PP’s candidate for the regional elections this year. It’s a breathtakingly hypocritical move that they themselves are now putting pressure on the judicial system, given how the PP protested so vehemently against the demonstrations in support of Garzón.

An interesting day, all in all, between scandals and drastic measures. The PP should have been delighted that Zapatero managed to steal the headlines from Camps and he did it through announcing spending cuts that the PP has been demanding for months and months. The PP should have been clapping themselves on the back, but instead they launched a ferocious attack on the measures and the negative effects they will have on Spanish families, in a completely illogical u-turn. Or maybe not. In Spanish politics it’s not what your stance on certain issues is, it’s how you differ from your political opponents. The PP will never applaud any measure adopted by the PSOE even if they agree with it. Criticise for the sake of criticising, oppose whatever your opponent says, that’s Spanish political tactics.

*It’s interesting to note that whilst I write this the shadowy gods have rained benedictions down on the Spanish economy thanks to the severe measures. Spain has been graced with the rising of the international markets. The citizens will pay for the recession. Amen.