Santiago Abascal.

Santiago Abascal.

04-04-2020Bibi

Now, who hasn't had a pay cut? Come on, hands up, especially you politicians and senior officials. Are you sacrificing any salary at a time of crisis?

Some are. A mayor here or there is taking a 25% cut or as much as 100% for a couple of months. But this is far from being universal. Nor is it being decreed. It is purely voluntary.

There are those politicians, numbered among whom are mayors, who have incomes other than what they take for being politicians. Hence why at municipal level there are those who do not have "exclusive dedication". They can in fact end up putting in shifts way beyond what they are paid for, but they have declined to have the kinds of salaries they are entitled to because they don't feel that they need them. There are mayors in Majorca, for example, who have settled for around a third of the going rate; and this has nothing to do with the crisis.

At times like these, politicians are arguably among the last who should be in line for pay cuts. Some of them anyway. Likewise some of the senior officials. It's hard for any of us to ascertain how much they are working, but it's reasonable to assume that there will be those who are spending very long days. Now is a time when they really earn their pay.

The problem for politicians, as ever, is that they are judged by public opinion, and the opinion of the public at present is that if they are having to make sacrifices, then why shouldn't the politicians. A distinction should perhaps be made, and that is between ministers and executive councillors who are genuinely in the front line and all those, be they deputies or councillors at national, regional, provincial, municipal levels, who are not.

In Majorca, El Pi is one party to suggest that there should be a reduction in salaries for those who aren't at the front line. The most extreme suggestion comes from Vox, whose leader Santiago Abascal wants all regional parliaments to be dissolved and the salaries to be spent on the health service. Yes, but then Santiago is playing a Vox political game - the party would happily scrap regional parliaments and governments, regardless of crisis.

Podemos have tabled a motion for the boards of Congress and Senate to declare 50% salary cuts for all deputies, senators and senior officials. This would also apply to state bodies such as the national broadcaster RTVE. PSOE, the PP and Ciudadanos had all announced that their members would be donating some of their salaries, but Podemos want it to be official. Spokesperson Pablo Echenique notes that some politicians make donations in any event and under normal circumstances. The situation at present is "exceptional" and it demands "exceptional and collective decisions". Politicians' pay cuts would release money that would go directly towards fighting the virus.

At regional level there doesn't, as yet, seem to be such a demand. El Pi may have suggested salary cuts, but this is about it. Will Podemos be tabling a similar motion to that for Congress and the Senate? Perhaps they will, and if so, would such a motion include the additional payments for ministers, officials and deputies who aren't habitually residents of Majorca, such as the Podemos agriculture, fisheries and food minister, Mae de la Concha.

It may be recalled that she was the target for criticism for receiving the 22 grand bonus on top of her ministerial salary. Then there were also various senior officials that Podemos had recruited from the mainland for the two ministries they control; they also get the bonus. The director of the anti-corruption office, Jaume Far, took an interest in all this. Was the claiming of this bonus always justified? It was ironic, given that it had been Podemos, above all other parties, who had been determined to establish the anti-corruption office.

Regular salary and bonus, it is reasonable for consideration to be given to cuts. Maybe not for all, but for some certainly. With many deputies at the Balearic parliament, what can they actually be doing at the moment? If they were engaged, for instance, in normal committee work - even by videoconference - then we would hear about it. They aren't, and much parliamentary work is right now fairly inconsequential. What would be the point, as an example, in having a culture committee meeting?

Government of national emergency

Vox have withdrawn all future support for the Sánchez government. This was the interpretation of the demand made by leader Santiago Abascal for Pedro Sánchez to resign along with Pablo Iglesias of Podemos and others.

Abascal wants a government of national emergency to be formed by technical experts and politicians who are not actively engaged in party political matters. This government would replace one which has been "negligent" and which at first "minimised" the threat of coronavirus. There would be just four ministries for the economy, health, interior and defence rather than the 23 that there are at present.

The proposal will not of course be pursued, but Sánchez can now anticipate a rougher ride in Congress. There will be one this week, and it will most certainly come from Vox with, one suspects, the PP not far behind.

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