Friday, 5 February 2010

Wirdheim in Vilanova: 2010 - 5

Life in Vilanova

I am tired tonight. In just a few days, the
carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú will start and that has led to a lot of extra work. At the office I have prepared a condom campaign - in our carnival erotic allusions are always welcome. In my spare time, like all other parents here, I have contributed to the carnival costumes which our two small children will use in school, but have also tried to come up with a good fancy dressing idea for our family as a whole. This will be our sixth Catalan carnival so it is high time we let go of our Swedish inhibitions.

In addition, I have tried to follow my
carnival company - Bordegassos - in their preparations, so now I know a bit more about how everything is organized. Unfortunately, I can not claim to have been of much help – although I hate to admit to myself, time tends to be a very limited resource if you have a wife who travels a lot in her job.

Last weekend she could not come home for work reasons and being alone with our little boys made me realize something new about them. Last Friday I dragged them to a small
photo exhibition, but immediately regretted having done so. For them it is a nightmare to meet group of some twenty adults who all want to say hello to them. The day after, when we went to La Sala to see the presentation of the carnival program, I was prepared for the worst. But everything went smooth - the room was so full of people that my sons became anonymous and that, interestingly enough, made them calm down. After all, they are not afraid of people, but just very shy. Well, on Sunday it was pay-back-time: Happy Meals and one and a half hours in the playroom at MacDonald's. In spite of the terrible noise I did not complain and was very well behaved, if you ask me.

Life in the big world

This week media has been so full of interesting news that I have to select one – otherwise I will not be able to finalize this chronicle. The choice is easy:

Zapatero, Spain, and my Hope for Consensus

Zapatero, who as late as when he was re-elected in 2008 was still pretending that the world’s financial crisis would not affect his government, has at the World Economic Forum of
Davos had to put up with panel discussions were he was flanked by Greece and Latvia. A quite embarrassing reminder of how the financial world now sees Spain.

Considering how
uncomfortable the situation must have been, I think that he made a better impression than I expected. My confidence in him increases when I hear him admit that the Spanish economy has problems. Unfortunately, that is not what we usually see and hear on Spanish television when his government debates with the opposition PP. Since the disputes between these two parties make it to the headlines literally every day, big and complex issues repeatedly drown in trivialities, where it is easier to show that your opponent is wrong. The focus and the humbleness which Zapatero shows to the outside world is blown away when he speaks at home.

Worse still is that also his
plans seem to blow away as soon as they are to be discussed on Spanish soil. Reducing early retirement and raising the retirement age to 67 surprised me as insightful, but then the trade unions threatened with strikes and the government swiftly downgraded these, in my view, necessary measures to merely be proposals for further discussion.

opposition, unfortunately, focuses more on election tactics than on actual policies. Instead of celebrating that the government opens the door to ideas whiich PP itself has played with, they accuse Zapatero of improvising and talk about a possible censure and early elections.

I can not help drawing a parallell to the
Swedish financial crisis of 1993. It was resolved after a number of radical decisions - some of which have beneficial effects still today, like the membership in the EU and a pension system robust to demographic changes. Most importantly, however, was that these measures were negotiated and decided by the government and the opposition in cooperation, which created precisely the stability that was needed. How bad do things have to be in Spain before PSOE and PP are prepared to do the same? Today in the Madrid stock exchange fell by almost 6% since investors fled what is perceived as one of the riskiest eurozone markets.

Zapatero has to accept that he will not ride out this battle as the best friend of the trade unions.
PP, on the other hand, must realize that the PSOE's crisis awareness can be a
unique opportunity to reach broad agreements on some of the labour market and welfare reforms which Spain needs. The crisis is here now and the next Spanish elections are far away.

- - --

SPA: LaVanguardia:
The Spanish stock market loses almost 6%

SPA LaVanguradia:
The trade unions are against the discussed pension reform

SPA: LaVanguardia:
PP is planning a motion of censure against PSOE

SPA: LaVanguardia:
The IMF "understands" Zapatero's pension reform

SPA: LaVanguardia: Spain's finance minister takes a step back from some of the proposals submitted to Brussels

- - -

Technorati tags: Catalonia, Penedès, PSOE, Spain, Vilanova, Zapatero,


Brett Hetherington said...

I think you make plenty of good points about Zapatero, particularly his ability to focus and be relatively humble, which I admire. He may be a better leader of the country if the PP were any decent kind of opposition. It seems like the press, now including El Pais have been his true opposition recently and perhaps we should now add the trade unions to this list. He should not govern for the interests of the financial markets alone, which is what some commentators and employers seem to be suggesting. Great site, by the way!

Erik Wirdheim said...

Thanks for your comment and encouragement, Brett.

Wow, you live in Vilafranca! That means that sooner or later we will meet by coincidence - I love your town almost as much as "my own".

Although I certainly agree that Zapatero should not govern for the financial markets alone, I firmly believe that Spain needs a labour market reform. What some rethorically call "abaratar el despido" is in my eyes a necessary measure to transform the temporary contracts which the younger generations have to accept (if they are forunate enough to get a job at all) into the indefinit contracts. In Spain today, small and mid-size companies are very reluctant to take on new staff on permanent contracts and that, in my eyes, cannot be good - neither for the unemployment situation and, as a consequence, nor for the welfare state.

I now hope that - at least - PSOE and CiU can reach some broader agreements, since PP does not seem to believe in consensus.

Some day I will explore your blog. But not now, when the carnival has just begun... ;-)