Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez underlined in the Lower House of Parliament that the application of the constitutional instrument of the state of emergency has helped save lives. He also advocated strengthening the public health system and providing a “positive, sustainable and inclusive” response to the crisis.
At the government control session in the Lower House on Wednesday, the Prime Minister stressed that the first lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is that “we get things right when united”. Thanks to the unity of institutions, parliamentary groups and the whole of Spanish society, “we have overcome the virus”, declared Pedro Sánchez in his response to the question posed by the MP, Pablo Casado, from the People’s Parliamentary Group.
Sánchez backed the use of the constitutional instrument of the state of emergency to tackle the worst health emergency in the last 100 years. “That is not me talking, but established by independent scientific studies – as a result of this lockdown, 450,000 lives have been saved. We have lost the lives of more than 27,000 fellow countrymen, but we have saved the lives of 450,000 people”, he remarked.
The government has also acted from the outset on economic and social matters, with such initiatives as the Minimum Living Income, the extension of the temporary lay-off plans (Spanish acronym: ERTEs) and the Official Credit Institute lines of credit, outlined Pedro Sánchez, who added that the government will continue legislating and adopting measures to combat the effects of the pandemic and called for the opposition to join in this task.
Strengthening public health and self-supply of material
Sánchez reiterated the government’s desire to engage in dialogue and reach understandings, in his response at the control session to the MP, Edmundo Bal, from the Ciudadanos Parliamentary Group.
By way of example of this disposition, Pedro Sánchez quoted the creation of the Parliamentary Committee for Social and Economic Reconstruction, the Conference of Regional Presidents – since the state of emergency was decreed, more of these conferences have been held than in whole of the Spanish democracy – the collaboration with the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (Spanish acronym: FEMP) and the numerous inter-territorial sector conferences.
Sánchez also stressed the boost to social dialogue. The agreement reached with business organisations and trade unions to extend the ERTEs is sustaining the income of 31% of the working population, he explained.
“In short, we have made an effort to reach agreements, to reduce tensions, to call for unity from everyone. This has been the will of the Government of Spain and it is the will I declare to this House”, claimed Pedro Sánchez.
Along this line, Sánchez reiterated his proposal that, once the health emergency is over, a COVID-19 Evaluation Committee be set up in the Lower House to address two central issues: on the one hand, how to improve the public health system; on the other, which measures should be adopted to ensure the self-supply of the material necessary with a view to a pandemic such as the present one.
Response to a crisis that has speeded up change
“The response to this crisis must be a positive, sustainable and inclusive response. That is the approach of the Government of Spain, both in Europe and in our country”, declared Pedro Sánchez in his response to the MP, Mertxe Aizpurua, from the Euskal Herria Bildu Parliamentary Group.
This commitment from the government, he added, has already been firmed up in such actions as the Minimum Living Income, the Draft Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition, the Spanish Circular Economy Strategy and on Tuesday, the regulation of the trade of greenhouse gas emissions allowances.
Sánchez advocated “anticyclical policies” in response to the economic crisis which offer protection to those sectors that need them. In order to “stem” the public deficit in the future, Pedro Sánchez remarked that it is necessary to “encourage” growth and reform the tax system to make it fairer. He also trusted that job creation will allow spending on unemployment benefits to be reduced.
Sánchez also remarked that the crisis “has speeded up changes that we could envisage”, in such areas as digitalisation, the ecological transition, employment, the sustainability of the Welfare State, public policies, education and the regulation of working from home. “That is what the government will focus on, and I would like to see most of this House join us”, he said.