A MODEL TO GO BY

Spain 2020 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

Spain is fighting hard to strengthen its historic ties with Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, boost its commerce with Asia, and advance a more sustainable global economic model.

Pedro Sánchez
BIOGRAPHY

Pedro Sánchez has been President of Spain since 2018. He is the general secretary of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), which he joined in 1993. He was also leader of the opposition and a candidate for the presidency of Spain in 2014 and 2016. Previously, he was a deputy in Congress representing Madrid and a councilor in the Madrid City Council. He graduated in economics and business administration from the Royal María Cristina University College at the Complutense University of Madrid before earning a master's in economics from the Free University of Brussels and a diploma in European economic and monetary integration from the Ortega y Gasset University Institute. He received his PhD in economics from the Camilo José Cela University, where he served as professor of economics, prior to which he was a member of the United Nations High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Spain is a stable democracy that seeks to strengthen its values by developing the rights of citizens, fighting against inequality, and committing itself to social justice and equality between men and women. Given the nationalist regression in all areas, my government is firmly committed to an effective and inclusive multilateralism as the only solution to meeting the labor challenges of our times. A southern European country joined by fraternal ties with Latin America due to its history and language, Spain is also a neighbor of Africa, shares an ancient friendship with the peoples of the Middle East, and has a greater aspiration to strengthen its ties with Asia, now the engine of the global economy. An open country, Spain will continue to fight for a more open and cohesive world inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Precisely because Spain is a country open to the world, it is fully aware that the challenges of all continents in the second decade of the 21st century are the same for everyone, with varying degrees, intensity and urgency—but still the same. A few days ago, I presented the government's program before the Spanish Parliament to obtain its trust and support. Our program describes the five challenges facing Spanish society and the five transformations necessary to overcome them. However, let us also remember that the challenges of Spain are also those of the world at large. In the first place, economic growth at any cost is unacceptable. Growth that widens the social gap, for example, is not acceptable. Growth that creates more pockets of poverty is not acceptable. We have to grow and distribute at the same time, and finally ask ourselves, what are we specifically doing to prepare ourselves for the great changes affecting our labor market? The Spanish economy continues to grow at a faster pace than the eurozone, but we have to improve our competitiveness, productivity, and cohesion so that this growth is sustained in the long term. Nor do we want to lose sight of employment: we do not want a future of precariousness or labor poverty. Instead, I want to tell you about the second challenge, which is the digital transformation of our economies: AI, biotechnology, and robotics are not mere links in a chain of economic change, but real levers for transformation.

During this very decade, our production systems, mobility, cities, health, and daily lives will be totally different from what they are now: there will be new products, markets, and ways of getting things done. Our goal, therefore, is, from here, to contribute to the greater economic and social wellbeing of the majority of our citizens rather than bet on the gradual decomposition of our welfare state. Human capital will also be key to promoting technological change. The new government of Spain wishes to turn education and research into its center of gravity, because they are guarantees of a brighter future. We will commit ourselves to training at all levels, but above all vocational training needs an important boost in our country. Until 2025, Spain will need to have created 200,000 new vocational training positions, in addition to training trainers in the main productive sectors.
The third challenge is that of the ecological transition. There is no other challenge better documented regarding the challenges we face in Spain. Yet, these are challenges that all of us face, especially when parts of Australia larger than the Netherlands and Belgium are on fire. While torrential rains flood Puerto Rico and, much closer to home, the Swiss glaciers are melting, contracting by 10% in the last five years alone. The climatic emergency is a disaster that knows no borders and must be met immediately. For the first time, Spain now has one vice-president for digitalization and another for ecological transition, which puts climate action at the heart of the government's policy. Just this year the government approved the Declaration of Climate Emergency, a sign that we are firmly committed to advancing a decarbonized energy model supported by renewable energy sources.

To achieve these objectives, Spain has presented its Strategic Framework for Energy and Climate as a road map to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 years. Our goal for 2030 is to reduce our emissions by 20% compared to 1990, and our ultimate goal is to achieve climate neutrality in 2050, with a 100% renewable electrical system. That being said, no economic growth can be good if it does not reduce inequalities, and no ecological transition will be positive if it is unfair or leaves people behind. This is why the government of Spain has developed a Just Transition Strategy, the first of its kind in the world, which, in accordance with the European Green Pact, wants to protect the most vulnerable from the fallout of these necessary transformations. Indeed, it is a strategy that allows all citizens to take full advantage of their employment opportunities, improve competitiveness and social cohesion, and ensure that no one is relegated. With regard to the ecological transition and consequent changes to the economy, I want to highlight something important: it is in our hands to ensure the impacts constitute a great step forward and turn these changes into opportunities for modernization, useful investment, job creation, and in general boost the world economy. The government of Spain is working toward this horizon through its National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030, which it presented to the EU. We will mobilize EUR236 billion in public and private financing between 2021 and 2030 and create between 250,000 and 364,000 new jobs in a decade.

The fourth challenge we face is true equality between women and men. Half the world's population cannot continue to suffer sexual assault, employment discrimination, and low incomes. But neither can the other half of humanity continue to allow this loss of female talent and a flagrant violation of the most basic human rights. It is neither fair nor effective because greater participation of women in the economy will have positive effects on growth as documented by many studies. Pro-women policies are one of the main characteristics of my government, a fact that is reflected in the composition of our balanced Council of Ministers and the fact that three out of our four vice presidencies are women. We favor equality and are advancing a law that establishes equal pay, equality in paternal and maternal leave, and a fairer balance of working hours. In addition to the relentless fight against gender violence, it is a great challenge in Spain to encourage sharing family responsibilities. Finally, the fifth challenge we face is that of social justice. We live in prosperous societies that have alarming levels of poverty and social vulnerability. Instead of being reduced, inequality is becoming more acute, something that poses a huge threat to the strength of our social fabric.
I remember the Dutch writer Rutger Bregman once saying: "I hear people talk about participation and justice, equality and transparency, but almost nobody mentions a real problem: tax evasion." Indeed, tax justice is a huge problem. Let's not be deceived. There can be no social justice without tax justice. And you have to go one step further: it is not enough to redistribute income through taxes; we must advance in predistribution by ensuring that markets function more fairly and democratically.