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World

Spain. Increase in Retirement Age: "The Government has Overstepped the Mark"

Translated Monday 15 March 2010, by Alison Billington and reviewed by Henry Crapo

For José Antonio Garcia Rubio, one of the leaders of Izquierda Unida, [1] the plans to bring the age of retirement up to sixty-seven years is surety given to the financial markets.

Huma:
How would you describe the crisis in Spain?

Jose Antonio Garcia Rubio:
By an unemployment rate that is twice as high as the European average. There are 4.3 million people out of work, the unemployment rate among young people is 44%. This is due to the establishment of a pernicious production model, founded on property speculation, on services with little creation of value, paid at low wages and with low qualifications, and with social spending as part of gross national product 6 points lower then the European average, on an economy dependant upon a foreign-based technological plan, on a very deficient commercial balance and with rampant corruption.

Huma:
There is also a very high national debt ...

Jose Antonio Garcia Rubio:
The public debt is not very high, not having reached 60% of the gross national product. The public deficit should remain at 12% of the gross national product in 2010. There is mainly a private debt that is very high, the consequence of borrowing abroad by the Spanish banks in order to finance property developers. With the explosion of the property bubble, these credits accorded have proved difficult to recoup. The Spanish bank system could be in a complicated situation because it must reimburse the capital borrowed from abroad. And the consequence of this is that the banks have reduced credit to businesses and to households.

Huma:
What is the impact on immigrants ?

Jose Antonio Garcia Rubio:
The number of immigrants entering has decreased and the majority of them enter the black market. We also observe that immigrants are beginning to be rejected, which is very dangerous.

Huma:
Spain has been presented like a model because of its respect, before the crisis, for European criteria for stability. What rôle has this policy played in the development of this crisis ?

Jose Antonio Garcia Rubio:
The crisis is that of the neoliberal model and, in Spain, of the Popular Party (rightist) as well as of the Socialist Party, which has been its faithful pupil. Here, privatization has occurred more than anywhere else, and to such a degree that the State no longer has the power to intervene in the most efficient way in the economy.
Moreover, the Zapatero government has no intention of intervening, unless to help capital, namely the banks. It hasn’t realised that private consumption must be stimulated and public investment increased, along with demand. The minimum salary has been increased by only 1.5% on the first of January. It is 633 euros. The state budget for 2010 reduces public investment, notably the expenses for research and development, which are essential to assure a different development.

Huma:
The Zapatero government wants to increase retirement age. How do you view this plan?

Jose Antonio Garcia Rubio:
It’s a very hard blow to the Spanish social system which is still very modest. The government wants to reduce pensions by 4 points of the gross national product in 2030, which corresponds to lowering it by 80 billion euros. With this plan, it crosses the red line. The unions will organise massive demonstrations, which we support. Rodriguez Zapatero prefers to reassure the banks and foreign investors, rather than his electoral base.

Huma:
What alternative political perspective is there in Spain ?

Jose Antonio Garcia Rubio:
We think that there is one, but the neoliberal policy of the socialist government is in the process of opening up the route to a victory for the Popular Party. While there is a majority for the Left in Parliament, the PSOE [2] – alas! preferred to ally itself with the nationalist groups of the Right.

Huma:
Doesn’t the capitalist crisis create conditions of mounting criticisms against the system?

Jose Antonio Garcia Rubio:
I believe so, in fact, but the main victory of the neoliberal forces has been ideological. Meanwhile, we feel mounting opposition to the effects of this policy. For example, when the private bank doesn’t play its rôle, the idea of setting up a coalition of public banks begins to dominate the debate. Since 2008, we have been working on an ambitious plan for employment and exiting the crisis. We have translated this into 20 concrete measures. At the beginning of February we organised days centering on the theme of a new productive model with the strategic objective of offering a perspective for a change in the social system.

[1political coalition, the United Left

[2Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol. Spanish Socialist Workers Party and leading party in Spain


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