Mariano Rajoy recently promised a long list of reforms that he will implement, he says, when he becomes President of the Government. Most thinking Spaniards hope he is being truthful. The cost of running modern Spain is ruinous, and has been ruining the state for long enough. The problem started with the coming of democracy and a Constitution. A group of politicians sagely decided to divide the country into seventeen ‘autonomous communities’. Roughly speaking, these invented communities were once known as ‘regions’, Cataluña, Madrid, Galicia etc. Though each community has its own Parliament, and an Assembly running its capital town, and is able to press taxation on its citizens, it is the extraordinarily high cost of running these communities which makes them apply for more, much more, from Spain’s coffers as an added subsidy. What this is worth per community can be found on the Internet. The sum per annum varies according to geographical size and population as well as other factors.
It is my firm opinion that each community should be self-financed, which it can perfectly well be; I can see no good reason why the Spanish people, already burdened with taxes, should have to assist communities other than where they work and reside. Why should a citizen taxpayer from Murcia, for instance, contribute through national taxes towards the community of Asturias?
With their heads firmly in the trough as we all know are the Ministers in Madrid, who have ensured that they can retire a number of years earlier than anyone else, with a massive take-home pension for the rest of their life – a pension which beggars belief – and has little or no connection with the ordinary monthly contributions they give to the Seguridad Social.
One splendid example is to be found, again on the prying but essential Internet. It is the case of an elegant ex-Vice President of Spain (PSOE) called María Teresa Fernández de la Vega. She is the person whom you will remember for never appearing twice in public wearing the same outfit – an questionable trait for a ‘socialist’. She is due to retire in four years time, and she is guaranteed to receive more than ten times the minimum pension, until death. At present de la Vega gets €84,578 per annum as a Member of the Cabinet of Mr. Zapatero, plus 80% of the salary she used to get as Vice President. This last juicy item is a perk in exchange for having lost her job. It is called in Spanish indemnización por haber cesado el cargo. One of the other heads beside de la Vega’s in the trough is that of Leire Pajín, who used to be Organisation Secretary of the PSOE until she was fired by Mr. Zapatero, with 80% of her salary as compensation too. Nice trough if you can reach it.
But to return to de la Vega: we can put things into proportion by clarifying that this elegant lady will get €11,803 per month with the usual two extra salaries included. The minimum pension in Spain for ordinary mortals is €645 per month. This is 18 times less than what de la Vega will get, and I am not certain but I believe there is a special arrangement whereby politicians do not pay tax on their pension. Yes I know this is not fair, because we do, but then we can’t get anywhere near the trough. €11,803 is also twice what any ordinary rich professional will get after paying the maximum to the Seguridad Social all their working life.
Arturo Pérez-Reverte is a very good writer and journalist who rarely deals with politics in his numerous columns in the national press, because he says politics makes him as bad-tempered as a wild boar. He broke his rule recently with a nice story: he has an old house in the oldest part of Madrid – the Austrias. On the other side of the ancient street lives a lady Minister, whom he does not name because he is a gentleman. Outside her residence every morning stand two official cars, probably Audi A8s. Pérez-Reverte knows a great deal about sailing boats and sailing (usually by himself around the Mediterranean) but he does wonder why the lady Minister should need two official cars. Anyway, both these foreign-made cars parked illegally outside the residence of the lady Minister, are accompanied by a uniformed chauffeur and two cops, presumably bodyguards, in case the terrorists with whom our present government negotiates should turn nasty and start spraying bullets around. Now that might disturb the lady Minister’s hair-do. These men and the cars are there every morning. Sometimes they are there all morning; sometimes not. One wonders what the cost will be – six salaries, two Audi A8s, petrol and maintenance: one Minister.
There are over thirty thousand such official cars spread about the Autonomous Communities, roughly 1,764 motors each. The trough is getting crowded. Mariano Rajoy says he is going to force politicians in future to share the official car with other politicians. Will you believe that when you see it?