••• The International Writers Magazine: From our Spanish Correspondent
Tax and Spend returns to Spain
Recently I reported on the dramatic turn of events in this country that ousted the conservative (PP) government of Sr. Mariano Rajoy and was replaced by the socialists (PSOE), Sr. Pedro Sanchez as president albeit with the support of many minor parliamentary representatives from a plethora of Spanish political parties. It was based on a parliamentary vote of ‘No confidence’, unprecedented in the history of Spanish democracy.
Everything occurred so suddenly that it took most of the citizens by surprise. They hardly had time to pop down to the news vendor for their daily rag, or sit down to a routine morning breakfast of coffee and doughnut before going to work. Even world events disappeared from the media and other than the 2018 World Football Championship that kicked off, pardon the pun, around the same time it was all eyes on the new Socialist Government (PSOE) and its flamboyant president Sr. Pedro Sanchez. He had spent the last couple of years promoting himself in a Round Robin nationwide journey, drumming up personal support and literally waiting for this glorious moment to take the reins and begin to turn the tables or, depending on what side of the political fence one is on, to ‘reverse the clock’. Having failed twice in past elections he is now third time lucky.
One approach that has radically changed has more to do with ‘image’ than anything else. Assisted by ‘spin doctors’, instead of that of his predecessor, a dull president continually presenting positive economic figures, reduction in the horrendous unemployment rate as well as increases in social security payments Sr. Sanchez approaches us with a constant smile on his face. Since appearing in public - first off was a personal interview on Spanish television TVE - he is now Mr. ‘Nice Guy’ ready to talk to everyone, full of positive good will and painting a rosy picture of a real ‘change’ in Spanish politics. Gone are the days of personally attacking Sr. Mariano Rajoy, the outgoing conservative (PP) president. That is past history. He has already had private talks with Sr. Pablo Iglesias of the far left party (Podemos) and although the latter has not been included in his cabinet they agree to work together with more socialist oriented programs. A sort of preview of forthcoming attractions.
He has also met with the President of the Basque Country - the PNV, Basque Nationalist party was key to the vote of ‘no confidence’ - and among other goodies has promised to transfer the remaining ETA (terrorist organization) prisoners to prisons nearer their families in the region. This is the first step that has triggered a negative and angry reaction from the terrorist victims’ associations as many are real murderers with blood on their hands. This is just the beginning.
Here are major points that have emerged since taking office:
- Article 155 of the Constitution has been revoked in Catalonia and full financial powers have been handed back to the Regional Government. Despite this gesture, the new President of the region, Sr. Quim Torra continues with the separatist movement. In fact, he has gone one step further by stating that the region does no longer recognize the Spanish Monarchy.
- The saga of the vessel ‘Aquarius’ with over 600 mainly African refugees that had hit international headlines finally arrived at the port of Valencia. Not only did Sr. Sanchez obtain brownie points but vowed to continue to assist in those suffering from the human tragedy in the Mediterranean. In practical terms it may have opened up a new route, especially through the provinces of Melilla and Ceuta across the straits of Gibraltar.
- His next step was the first official visit to Europe to meet with the Heads of State in Germany, France and the European Union. Unwritten discussions indicate that both Macron and Merkel must have warned him about ‘open house’ to Africa as his public statement on the subject changed his original tune to one of ‘The whole of Europe must make moves to resolve this crisis’.
On the home front we now see a move towards true socialism. Here are, for now, the main changes:
- Intends to revoke the recently approved conservative labor law. Will wait and see to what extent.
- Increase state pensions according to the cost of living index. Will introduce a banking tax to cover the costs. Banks will automatically pass this on to their customers. Already causing a stir in new taxation on the horizon to cover the cost.
- Will up the minimum wage. This will add burden to the unemployment handouts.
- Paternal leave has been increased to match maternal leave that now stands at 14 weeks. It was originally 4 weeks for fathers. More days will be lost to both commerce and private companies.
- Has injected, as per previous agreements, money into the trade unions. These will demand even more social investment.
- The present 2018 budget will be adhered to.
- Finally, a real bombshell. During the previous socialist presidency under Sr. Rodriguez Zapatero, an extremely controversial law was passed known as the ‘Historical Memory Law’. The basic idea was try to identify all the persons fallen and buried in thousands of unknown graves during the Spanish Civil War of 1936/1939. In practice it turned into a witch hunt to eradicate the ‘memory’ of the Franco dictatorship thus opening up the wounds that had been healed during the transition period that kicked off the present democracy. What Sr. Sanchez intends to do now is remove the remains of Generalissimo Franco that are buried in a large war memorial known as ‘El Escorial’ that was erected in remembrance of all those fallen, on both sides of the tragic war. This, no doubt will cause a new rumpus as the announcement is hot off the press. (As is the news that PM Sanchez will soon legalise euthanasia in Spain - to be discussed in a future article)
Note: The European Union has already warned the government that it must still adhere to the agreed budget deficit. Any increase in public expenditure would have to be covered by increase in taxes.
The other major events are irrelevant to the present change in government.
Sr. Iñaki Undargarin, husband of Crown Princess Helena has finally received a jail sentence and is in prison. This was a long standing battle of fraud that started years ago and has finally been put to rest. It is, however a serious precedent as it affected the Spanish Royal family that at this moment is suffering due to the separatist movement in Catalonia that want no part of them. The real hot potato facing Spain’s future.
The other news is that Spain has gone through to the next phase of the World Football Championship thanks to a last minute goal scored by one of our local lads from my neck of the woods. Iago Aspas from our local Celta football team of Vigo, Galicia.
See you next month.
© James G. Skinner. July 2018
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