The big question, we are incessantly told, is whether Rajoy is going to ask for a second bailout, using the EU’s ethereal rescue mechanisms. But here on the ground in Spain, there are countless questions which no one in the Popular Party (PP) government seems interested in answering.
Let’s start with a small day-to-day issue: How much does it save the government to make civil servants go to the doctor in order to justify one single day’s absence, clogging up yet further the public healthcare system?
Still in the healthcare department: Was the decision to strip illegal immigrants of their health cards, unless they pay into an insurance plan, really taken on economic grounds or was the aim to distract attention?
On education, it is not good enough that the education minister thinks it is amusing to wax semantics, saying this week that it is for “students to improve their performance in order to boost economic growth.” Before answers, in this case, a little humility is required to admit that billions of euros have been slashed from education spending. And that comes with a cost.
Ok, now to money: What is the next move as regards the serious problem of tax evasion in light of the failure of the “fiscal amnesty” to so far raise more than some tens of millions when the government predicted it would bring in 2.5 billion euros? When and how will the authorities go after the tax dodgers?
And are the IMF-touted macroeconomic gains of boosting indirect taxation ahead of raising levies on the wealthy worth the pain? We don’t know because the government is not deigning to explain its policies.
Faced by such a storm, it would be nice if we could all row in the same direction, but, to labor the maritime metaphor, Spain’s skipper remains locked in his quarters. Having coasted to power by merely observing the wreckage of the Zapatero administration, Rajoy clearly took a decision to eschew the media spotlight in the hope of avoiding a swift burnout. All well and good. But his government has been forced to dart hither and thither as the deficit-target dictates have commanded. When pressed, on occasion, the prime minister’s pitch is the message that “the right people are in charge now; rest assured, if anything goes wrong, it will not be due to our incompetence.”
It might be populist to yearn to maximize time spent on the podium, but a little verbal populism would surely be welcome at this stage. We might not all swallow the policies, but it would be nice to know where they are meant to be heading. Wait a minute! Damn nice, it is our right to know. On September 10 Rajoy offered his first TV interview since taking office nine months earlier. In his few press conferences, he has rarely taken questions from journalists.
Rajoy is not burning in the spotlight, but the masterplan is by no means taking a crystalline form as the waves of “reforms” (cutbacks) pass by. The draft 2013 state budget (coming close on the heels of the 2012 document which was held back until Easter seemingly with the ultimately frustrated hope of hoisting the PP candidate to power in Andalusia) contains virtually nothing by way of stimulus for the ailing economy, with the exception of a reintroduced car-purchasing subsidy. Business is to sprout by itself; the unemployed disappear – by going abroad or simply falling off the records as their entitlements elapse; growth will return by magic to fecundate fallow land.
Or is no one explaining any plan because there is no plan? Waiting for Rajoy could be the unfunniest political joke ever played.
Photograph by Uly Martín.