By Ignacio Cosidó
Spain’s cabinet approved lowering speed limits in order to save energy. Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba announced that it was only the first of a series of measures to force Spaniards to reduce the country’s oil consumption. Spain’s Minister of Public Works José Blanco even hinted at future supply problems. The dangerous combination of this government’s economic incompetence and its interventionist drive can lead us to energy rationing in the near future – resembling more the situation of Communist Cuba than of a European Union country.
Decades of economic and social progress have gone to waste thanks to Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s seven-year tenure in power. Humanitarian organizations have been swamped with increased requests for food aid in the last two years. Shoplifting offenses involving supermarkets are soaring. Millions of families are having a very hard time to make ends meet and they are being forced to renounce to the most basic things. Zapatero is going to bequeath Spain a legacy of misery that is unheard of for at least the last fifty years.
In Zapatero’s Spain, there are almost five million people in the ranks of the unemployed. More than one and a half million families have all their household members unemployed. Almost two million unemployed workers have run out of unemployment benefits. One in every two immigrants living in Spain is unemployed, most of them have no family network to fall back on. Half of our young people cannot find a job and an increasing number of them must emigrate in order to try to find a better future. All these groups are clearly in a desperate situation.
The problem is that this dire situation can get even worse in the months ahead. The faltering Spanish economy will generate even more unemployment throughout this year, which can make the economic and social situation untenable. Food prices are soaring in international markets whereas a sizeable part of Spain’s agriculture system is being dismantled due to Zapatero’s negligent defense in the European Union of our primary sector.
As a result of revolutions in Arab countries and the increase of energy demands in emergent countries, energy prices are sharply rising. The utility bill has already gone up 30 percent in the last two years, but it can still go up much more. Gasoline prices are increasing to all-time highs. Natural gas prices reflect the same trend as gasoline costs. In spite of the situation, the Zapatero Administration doesn’t have anything resembling an “energy policy.” Its flip-flopping about solar energy put into question the soundness of Spain’s legal system. Regarding nuclear energy, this Administration has been able to say one thing and the exact opposite – even the opposite of the opposite, such as in the case of the Garoña nuclear power plant.
Inflation in Spain shows an upward trend that is more pronounced than in other markets. The recovery of economies such as Germany’s may push the Central European Bank to raise interest rates – a move that would have devastating effects on the economy of most Spanish families since they usually have variable-rate mortgages. If basic necessities go up in price, if unemployment goes up and social welfare protection is reduced, several million Spaniards can be on the verge of severe poverty.
The question is how to change the dynamics of what’s leading us on the road to state bankruptcy and the speedy impoverishment of society. The first thing is to tell citizens the truth. And the truth is that Zapatero’s nefarious economic policies have placed Spain on the verge of insolvency and if we aren’t able to find our way to boost job creation, the economic and social situation of this country is going to be untenable, particularly immersed in an international environment of increasing uncertainty.
The second thing is that we must be ready to undertake reforms that won’t be easy to carry out; nonetheless, they’re ineluctable if we’re to get out of this deep crisis. Reforms that include not only the job market, competitiveness, public services, and the financial sector, but also institutional reforms in areas such as the legal system, education, Spain’s territorial organization model or the political system itself. If we aren’t able to undertake those reforms with boldness, determination, and wisdom, our future can be even gloomier than our present. We already know what the socialist alternative has to offer: More unemployment, more waste, more corruption, fewer liberties.
This Administration’s latest occurrence has been to lower speed limits for highways in order to save energy. I’m afraid that with this Administration we’re about to get rationing cards – and not only for fuel. It seems incredible, but, if five years ago, someone had told us that young Spaniards would have to emigrate as their grandparents did in order to find a job, we wouldn’t have believed it, either. Every day that Spain’s Prime Minister Zapatero continues in office, we get a step closer to our past.
©2011 Translated by Miryam Lindberg