ZAPATERO THE SPANISH WHIPPING-BOY WHO TRIED. |
Victim of his own party or his socialistic dreams ?
Never in the history of modern politics has anyone been so villified, blamed or otherwise come so close to lynching than the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero. Today, with a visible emotional restraint, he finally declared, against all odds of running the full course of his office, that elections had been brought forward to November this year.
The general state of affairs of the nation has been screaming out for change, but true to the idealistic ideology of what is now being seen as a defunct, political concept, socialism has been forced once again to face the debris of its repressive fantasy laden, policies. Socialism, by definition, demands constant expenditure to maintain its caring image, but the negative side depresses well known economic growth concepts of market freedom and which eventually disenchants the investor. The wanton waste and illconceived public investment programmes coupled with a high degree of political corruption has done little to protect the interests of the main contributors to the Spanish labour market, which are the excessivly deprived small and medium sized employers. In fact, their existance has hardly ever been acknowledged and public interviews have only recently focussed on the phenomenon as if by reluctant admission (no doubt forced to be made public by the startled European Union leaders).
Zapatero however, has stuck to centre ring, despite the unnecessary, unfair bashing, with amazing resilience. Without doubt he would have made a good right wing politician, capable of putting most in their place with the very conviction that most left wing labour activists saw lacking in him. It is true that at times, especially when he called the military in to save the tourist industry, he seemed to have a measure of the needs of the moment despite the growing disenchantment which he was creating among the quasi communist cheerleaders bent on striking at every turn.
Economic policies, particularly ones based on capitalist theory, have not been all that palatable to union table bangers who in the main demand but do not know how to obtain benefits for their party followers. Incredibly,despite the visible tatters of the labour market, they continue to deny having put out so many out of work by reason of their hatred of and aggression towards the entrepreneurial sector, which they cynically call, “ El Patronal”.
The Spanish Constitution grants every citizen the right to work, but no government has ever backed it with social compensation. Most unemployed beg and borrow to survive, unlike most others in Northern countries where unemployment and social benefits are always on the table. Therein lies one of the basic faults of the Spanish labour market. In Spain, the unemployed on the main cannot even eat. Sad pictures of elderly people unable to pay for their contribution to the prescriptions and others rummaging among the waste bins speak badly of Spanish social services which Europe has described as unacceptably and poorly supported. The tired armchair image therefore, of two diehard extreme left union leaders who flaunt their inexplicably poor understanding of modern economics, has even offended the taste of the average worker who is not as enamoured of unions as these leaders would have them be. The holiday feel of strikes however, in a country covered with excuses not to work, is a frightening weapon to throw at politicians when they finally decide to put unions in pespective. Indeed this is what the Spanish Prime Minister has tried to do bravely, despite knowing that the strident demands of these destructive figures capable of moving masses, could prove and have achieved his political death knell.
There is no doubt that Rodriguez Zapatero has felt the cold air coming in from his European colleagues and that he has sailed invariably within a self engendered false optimism which has delayed the potential of stricter legislation and urgent labour reforms. He has however, been caught bentween the devil and the deep blue sea in so far as his own party economic blindness, was concerned. On the one hand he was expected to take tough measures to control the employment plunge, (which is so bad as to be almost a denial of investment in the sector) and on the other hand forbidden to touch the basically illegal instruments of entrepreneurial repression, which has put employment in the realms of fear, (as the Chairman of the Bank of Spain made so clear). With a left wing, quasi communistic Labour court bankrupting small employers and causing the closure of many a hotel and service sector industry, investment in employment has become a dirty word. In fact because of the skill with which the average local employee can put employers before the Courts, even locals advise not to employ their own. The service sector on which the Spanish tourist industry depends,with its huge worker population has defied management with calculated and habitual walk outs that in the case of top level hotels has led to closures. On the industrial front, cheap copy products of European products imported from China, were seen by the socialist party as the answer to consumer needs but subsequently denying the birth of a strong cottage industry which would have solved the growing labour problem.
Denial of facilities and incentives for what many party leaders have called “arming the business community” put paid to any growth in that direction. Banks turned their backs on all but very few businesses and made cashflow loans not only prohibitively expensive, butsecured against personal assets.
Worker rights which now reflect the worst excesses of the Scargil fraca that Margaret Thatcher demolished, has made labour so expensive with hidden costs, that resulting low productivity has routed those employers unwilling and unable to take on such risks. The result has been a tendency for employers to select self employed family members or use black market labour to reduce the chances of being blackmailed. With a clever labour lawyer now working on percentages of salaries obtained, the average worker with a grudge and false witnesses can take an employer to court within five weeks of obtaining employment and obtain at least six or seven monthly salaries even if proved wrong. This perversive penalty called, “ salarios de tramite” is unavoidable and whatever the sentence, the employer has to pay both salary and social security right up to the delivery of the sentence. Zapatero has been making prouncements to the effect that such things would cease to exist, but effectively what little legislation he has managed to put into place, has been badly mauled by his left wing masters. Even today, without solid reforms not yet effectively in place, these anachronistic figures appear not to understand the need and even claim that, as predicted, they have not rectified the unemployment catastrophe!
The broken figure of the Spanish Prime Minister is however not one that even the present leader of the oppostion party, Rajoy, in all his airy glory, can claim achievement for. The labour party bosses are the culprits in this respect and their ignorance of real economic issues lathered with hollow social concerns, is clear to all concerned.
Europe has, belately, taken heed but for the dying Spanish labour market, it may well be not only too late, but the heralding of something much worse – a misguided nation unable to face or correct its own mistakes wihtout massive outside intervention.
The answer is a hire and fire policy in an open labour market which has worked wonders in most developed countries. Even if the conservative, Partido Popular, gets in this November, it is unlikely that they will have the stomach for such labour reforms. The possibility that it could be utilised against them by that selfsame, vociferous rabble rousing sector, will lead to conciliatory and mistaken appeasements.
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