Which politicians have been having a good crisis? There have been those who have been prominent, but prominence does not in itself guarantee goodness. There are politicians away from these shores who have attained prominence for entirely the wrong reasons. Step forward, for example, Gavin Williamson. In Spain, few politicians have been more prominent than Salvador Illa, the health minister. Good or bad? It’s your choice. My feeling is that it was generally good until the state of alarm ended and at which point he no longer had central command. His most recent intervention, that to do with nightlife and smoking, required regional agreement. He can’t tell the regions what to do, only steer them in a given direction.
There is the argument that the Spanish government should have retained or regained powers over certain policy areas. But the government can only proceed within the framework of constitutional devolved rights and with the awareness that centralised powers have an almighty stigma attached to them, the legacy of the past. The state of alarm, a necessary and constitutional mechanism for specific circumstances, could only have ever been temporary. Politically and socially it was tolerable, but not beyond a period of absolute necessity.
During the state of alarm, regional governments had only so much room for manoeuvre. In the Balearics, the government, for example, could have its own health response. The deployment of primary care teams received praise in some quarters. The hospitals were not overrun because of the home treatment where individuals’ conditions and circumstances allowed this.
The health minister, Patricia Gómez, didn’t have a bad state of alarm, but she is now enduring a bad, ongoing crisis. While the infections have gone up, constant are the complaints about the capacity of the primary care system.
Fundamentally, and irrespective of government decrees (e.g. the closure of establishments on streets of Magalluf), the obligations for mask-wearing and social distancing, infections reflect mobility. The regional government can, in theory at any rate, introduce internal restrictions on mobility, but it can’t do anything about mobility into the Balearics. Only the Spanish government can, and were the government to apply restrictions, we would partially return to the provisions of the state of alarm. Politically this would be difficult, while I’m not sure that there is a legal mechanism to allow it.
There are certain politicians whose crisis can only have been bad. The Balearic finance minister, Rosario Sánchez, falls into this category. While there is always an element of uncertainty in the budget-setting process, you don’t bargain on a pandemic coming along and disrupting this process - and fundamentally so. For the finance minister, the crisis is only likely to get worse.
The AIReF independent fiscal responsibility authority may not have endeared itself to the regional government by venturing the change to the residents’ discount system that it did (getting rid of it in fact), but the government will surely have taken note of the AIReF predictions regarding government finances.
Responding to a report with headline of government finances set to worsen in the coming years, someone on Facebook reckoned this was non-news, when in fact it was rather important and a different type of assessment to the usual ones.
This is because of how the regional financing system operates. It is of course intimately linked to tax revenues, but the process of distribution, plus the Spanish government’s lower revenues, will see the Balearics finances down notably next year and more so in 2022.
For this reason, one tires somewhat of opposition opportunism when there is a situation over which a government has very little control.
This inability to control does expose an inherent impotence (one could almost say irrelevance) in the face of a grave crisis and therefore means that politicians are having a bad crisis by definition. But the opportunists should reflect that there but for the grace of God. How would they have controlled the uncontrollable?
Biel Company of the Partido Popular has been making plenty of noise, some of which is perfectly legitimate, but an observation the other day was unnecessary. There should be a “true reactivation plan and not a copy and paste of budgets and the Bellver pacts”.
Calling for budget allocation to contain effective measures and “reinforcement and coordination of social assistance”, he was wanting the government to rip up the Bellver accords that underpin it.
Company, as with all opposition politicians, is looking to have a good crisis by taking the government to task. Again, this reasonable, but has he actually read the Bellver accords? There will of course have to be reallocation of spending - the government’s not daft.
Previous priorities will have to be given less attention, but abandoning the ideas on which this government is based? I don’t think so. The Bellver accords were a range of policy goals, the principles of which even the PP would surely mostly accept, and they highlight social assistance.
For some politicians having a lousy crisis, allow them a degree of leeway. The crisis and its consequences are not their fault.