Publicador de contenidos

Back to 28_03_2018_noticia_EyP_masterPsicologiaSanitariaopinion_ECO_pensiones

José Luis Álvarez Arce, Professor of Economics and Business Administration, University of Navarra, Spain School

Pensions: a lack of pedagogy.

Wed, 28 Mar 2018 13:25:00 +0000 Published in Colpisa

The pension problem has exploded in the hands of the current government. According to some of the statements heard in the last few days, there is a certain perplexity among policy makers, who seemed not to expect protests like those of March 17. Their response to the mobilizations has been based on a string of statistics, on the promise that pensions will continue to increase and on arguments about the sustainability of the system. Reasonable, but insufficient.

What is astonishing is that this discontent has surprised the government. The deterioration in the sustainability conditions of the current pension system has been going on and being discussed for some time. Let us remember that the so-called Toledo Pact began back in 1995. Since then, in the framework of that pact, successive governments have been undertaking reforms almost continuously. However, these reforms have been undertaken without much public discussion. Moreover, the years of economic prosperity and population rejuvenation through immigration facilitated a relaxation that seemed to somewhat anesthetize concern about this issue topic, although fortunately savings began to be contributed to the so-called pension fund. There was probably a lack of transparency and, undoubtedly, a lack of pedagogy on the part of our leaders. In a way, the current protests also reflect these shortcomings.

Pensions in particular, and the welfare system in general, are very precious assets for society. Those of us who enjoy them must take care of them, and those who govern must manage them for the common good. Both responsibilities require citizens to have a good understanding of the functioning mechanisms of the welfare state, knowledge . If we know how these mechanisms operate, we will be more capable of making decisions that contribute to their sustainability and we will be in a better position to demand accountability from those who manage them. I believe that this is where the governments of recent years have failed. They have taken comfortable and short-term positions. They have not explained things well; they have not made the effort to clarify the why and how of the reforms. Suffice it to say that some of the protests and claims, explicitly or implicitly, refer to a conception of pensions more in line with a capitalization system (I have been contributing money for my retirement, and that is my money) than with a pay-as-you-go system (what I contribute today serves to pay the pensions received today by those who have already retired) such as the one in force in Spain.

Nor do the proposals and promises of the civil service examination, trying to get political mileage out of the social discontent on the topic. They seem to have a magic recipe that they have been hiding until now. Prudence and caution should prevail in this discussion . As in many other policy issues, we are facing a resource problem: the current system will be unable to generate as many resources as it needs to maintain the levels of generosity it was supposed to have. Of course, it is legitimate to resort to other sources of financing, such as taxes or debt. But knowing and explaining that this will mean taking resources away from other socially valuable purposes. Because, contrary to what may be deduced from the ease with which they take credit for economic success, governments do not generate resources out of nothing. Nor are wealth and prosperity the fruits of a universe that conspires to make our lives easier (if it were up to the universe, we would be very poor). They depend on the efforts made by companies, organizations of different kinds, society and each of its members. They also depend on their solidarity. Governments can only create more or less favorable conditions for this. It would be advisable to educate people in this respect. But that is another topic...