Sunday, November 09, 2003

New Partido Popular leader Mariano Rajoy was interviewed in today's Vanguardia about the upcoming elections for the Catalan Parliament. Here are a few of the things he said. This is pretty good. It is not typical governmental guff. Mr. Rajoy, in the interview, demonstrates himself to be a well-informed and thoughtful leader who shoots straight. I often complain about Spanish politics, but I admire the Spaniards as a whole for producing such a competent, responsible, and professional political party as the PP, and then electing it.

Look at the piece we did on Zap way back when in May he gave an interview to the Vangua. We translated some of his utterances then. Compare the intellectual and moral level of the two men, Zapatero and Rajoy. The difference is shocking.

Says Rajoy, ...What we want, as I said before, is to be able to work with the "rules of the game" in place now; with the Constitution and Statute of Autonomy, which have been useful and which have allowed a great advance in the self-government of Catalonia, and also in the well-being of the citizens. We hope to achieve, in the upcoming years, real convergence (equivalence in GDP per capita with the rest of the EU) and full employment, and let nothing distract us from that situation. It's a problem of priorities. Our priority is not reforming the Constitution and the Statute, and I don't think that's the priority for the majority of Catalans, but rather working so that Catalonia will become better and better off. Let's not forget that Catalonia has seen large growth over the last few years. It's the second autonomous region in Spain as far as the active (percentage of) population, outranked only by the Balearics, and its employment rates are very reasonable. We plan to continue in this line and to continue working in favor of governability in Catalonia, as we did during these eight years of getting the (regional) budgets passed. We are satisfied by this, as we are satisfied by the cooperation that Convergence and Union gave to the Administration of Spain.

...I believe that the agreement there has been during the last eight years has been positive; sincerely, it's been positive. That is, to give you a figure that is enormously significant, the budget of the Generalitat since the PP has been in the Administration has increased more than a billion (US=trillion) of the old pesetas, more than six thousand million (US=billion) euros, which is not pocket change. That has meant an enormous increase in the capacity of self-government.

From another point of view, I think that the economic growth that has occurred is enormously relevant in Catalonia. And, look, I think it's been that way from the perspective of investment, because the average investment (in Catalonia) during the years of Socialist Administrations was 8% of the total spent by the Ministry of Development (Fomento); in our first legislative term, when we had an agreement with CiU, it was 11%, and in more recent years it's been 16%, arriving at 17% of the 2004 budget. Therefore, cooperation has been positive, and what I think is not positive is distracting ourselves from what is really important to us, which is continuing to work toward growth and employment.

In the year 1978 the whole of Spanish society decided to look forward and forget a history that had certainly been complex, to put it like that. And there was a political agreement, a social agreement, there was an agreement that permitted that in Spain the PSOE or the PP could govern with a majority, allied sometimes with the (regional) nationalists, sometimes not; that is, it permitted governing with everyone and establishing a territorial agreement (division of governmental power between the central government and the regions) that was very difficult to reach. And the territorial agreement was established fundamentally because of the special situation that responds to history, and not to something just made up, of Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Galicia. And there we all said, "We're going to move from a centralist State to a State decentralized politically, legislatively, and administratively." Today, the autonomous regions in Spain have a level of public spending very superior to those of the decentralized European models, concretely Germany and Austria. They have authority over the fundamental large public services, and with the PP Administration we passed the new model of regional financing that has produced the greatest autonomy of income that there has ever been, because before there was authority to spend but not to generate income.

The Generalitat can make decisions about taxes that are important to the people, like income tax, inheritance tax, gift tax, judiciary acts, VAT, et cetera. And this is a very relevant fact. From there on, that was the big decision we made when we (the Spaniards) passed the Constitution and the Statute.

Note several things about Mr. Rajoy. His thoughts are organized. He knows his facts cold. He has his priorities straight. He avoids using demagogic rhetoric. He is a dealmaker, not a divider. He is a moderate, not an extremist. Compare Mr. Rajoy's statements with Zap's again, and two things just leap out at you: 1) Mr. Rajoy is professional and competent and will do a fine job as Prime Minister, which we all know he's going to be. 2) Zap is a dope. How the hell did he ever get to be leader of anything, much less the major opposition political party in a major European democracy?

By the way, if you want some political guff in Catalan, here's the link to the PP's program for next weekend's elections. It's just baloney, mumbo-jumbo, bushwah, gobbledygook, horsehockey, whatever, but it is MODERATE above all else.

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