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Spain Must Learn From The Lessons Of A Pandemic Year

It was like an eclipse. Suddenly, at noon, it was dark. Spain had decades under skies sometimes clearer, others cloudy, but during the day, nothing like the closed night that abruptly precipitated in those days of March a year ago. The warning signs had been accumulating, but it was with the declaration of the state of alarm , just a year ago, that the overwhelming awareness of the catastrophe crystallized.

The following 12 months have yielded a terrifying balance: more than 70,000 deaths registered by covid(and an excess over the average of the previous four years of more than 90,000); a collapse of GDP of 11% in 2020; a politics in a bleak state of turmoil and litigation.

In all these aspects – health, economic and political – the juxtaposition of the Spanish balance with that of other developed democracies is negative. Undoubtedly, the Government has important responsibilities in this.

But there are also structural factors that do not depend on the government of the day, and a concurrence of guilt in a state of a quasi-federal court. In addition to the pain for the life lost , then, Spain should coldly analyze the conjunctural errors and the structural failures that the pandemic has exposed.

In terms of health, there are particularly marked problems in Spain : the extremely high number of deaths in residencesof the elderly; the high percentage of infected toilets due to lack of protective equipment; the precipitous de-escalation after the first wave and the stumble on the same rock at Christmas.

The health system has withstood the stress test of successive waves thanks to the dedication of its professionals, but the pandemic has revealed its weakness due to the cuts of the previous decade. The fragility of public health structures – with a 2011 law that has not yet been fully developed – and of decision-making mechanisms in a decentralized state has also become evident.

The Interterritorial Health Council, as a co-governance body, has proven to be a not very agile instrument (and everything has been made worse by the bad political disposition of some).

On an economic level, Spain’s position in the European caboose in terms of GDP declineIt is explained by its extremely high dependence on the tourism sector, the epicenter of the earthquake. The explanation, however, is no consolation.

Faced with the disaster, the Government has given protection responses that are generally correct in its orientation —ERTE, credits guaranteed by the ICO, reinforcement of the social umbrella with the minimum vital income and, this week, direct aid to companies and the self-employed—, but almost always with some delay with respect to the action of European partners and with implementation difficulties.

The pandemic once again highlights endemic Spanish problems – dysfunctional labor market, low productivity, excess of small businesses, doubtful sustainability of the pension system with a fragile contribution base. All this will have to be the object of attention and reforms.

Efficient management of European funds will be essential, that stimuli are not withdrawn prematurely and design a medium-term fiscal plan that generates confidence. On the positive side, the pandemic has revealed a remarkable willingness to dialogue between unions and employers.

The political plane is daunting. To the endemic turbulence on territorial issues and confrontation between parties, the pandemic has added the finding of the inability to overcome the collective interest of partisans even in terrible times.

The political cultures of the front and the narrative prevail in Spain, both enemies of pragmatic solutions and compromise, which are the main path of progress. I hope Spain knows how to learn from its mistakes. Can. It did so in the past, projecting itself with an extraordinary leap from the sad delay of the Franco dictatorship to the vibrant reality of a modern and prosperous society.

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