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Alejandro Navas, Professor of Sociology, University of Navarra, Spain

The challenges of the new government

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 15:31:03 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

The task that has fallen upon the new government is enormous. In a few months it has to repair the consequences of years of misrule and chaos. If it fails to do so, the country could fall into an irremediable depression and drag Europe into the euro's downfall: the stakes are high. Everyone, citizens and political class , are aware of being in a critical status , in the sense that the term "crisis" had in the context of Greek medicine, where it arose: decisive moment in the evolution of the disease, in which the patient either dies or is cured.

The President of the Government has hastened to reassure the European Union - that is, Angela Merkel -, in words and with the adoption of the first measures. The priority is to re-establish the budgetary discipline , with the goal to eliminate the public deficit by 2013. The basic principle of any good management consists of not spending more than what is collected - at its peak, Zapatero's government spent twice as much as it collected -, but when such a considerable debt is being carried, it is urgent to go a step further and ensure the generation of wealth and economic growth. Otherwise, it will not be possible to pay the creditors.

To stimulate economic activity there is no other solution than to reform the labor market, in order to eliminate rigidities and obstacles and favor the creation of employment. The government, which had been announcing for some time its reformist purpose and urging the social partners to negotiate a major agreement, has already taken the first decisions. Unfortunately, their scope has fallen well short of the previously stated objectives. The determination to put an end to corruption and vested interests is lacking. The public sector, as excessive as it is inefficient, will suffer only purely symbolic cuts. It seems that there has been a lack of courage to deal with civil servants and trade unions. Disappointment is spreading in Brussels and in the international economic media, even though the government insists that it has taken the right course, so that the positive effects of its policy will soon be seen. These statements reflect a desire to give a good image. The government itself is not having it all its own way and has turned to Brussels to ask for additional aid, invoking the exceptional nature of the current situation.

Reassure the reader: everything said so far refers to Italy and President Mario Monti's efforts to restore its battered economy Economics. But we cannot be complacent: Spain is not much better off. Mariano Rajoy has assumed the presidency a little later than his Italian colleague, and the mission statement he is called to fulfill is very similar. Each to his own, but it is worth taking a look at his neighbor.

Will Rajoy have the necessary strength to take to internship the reform program that won the majority support at the polls? Will he crumple at the first change, as is happening to Monti? The Italian President is back and has no special political ambitions. He has even allowed himself the gesture of renouncing his salary. However, these circumstances, apparently so favorable, have not prevented him from trembling at the decisive moment.

It would be naïve to think that the difficult work task of moving the country forward corresponds exclusively to the government. We must all pitch in to the extent of our possibilities. We will have to overcome once and for all our age-old tendency to expect everything from the State. But the government must set an example and do its homework: discipline budget; cut the unproductive public sector; fix the autonomous and municipal mess; reform education; bury the gender diary (extravagant core of Zapatero's program); reform the financial system; organize the energy sector; improve justice; purge the political class and fight corruption. This is the only way to create the right conditions for ordinary citizens to recover their illusion and get involved in a shared project .