Spain’s United Left, the third largest national party, has announced an economic “shock” plan to create more some 1.5 million jobs in two years by investing in greening the economy, protecting the environment, tackling the housing crisis and boosting essential public services.
Unveiled 10 days before parliamentary elections, the plans include creating 300,000 jobs for reforestation, development and protection of the forests and natural parks; 200,000 jobs in upgrading the country’s existing housing stock and 170,000 jobs in the public sector, particularly in education and health.
A further boost to employment – up to 400,000 jobs –will come through a cut in the working week to 35 hours at no loss of pay, a move that will also improve work/life balance.
The plan, which comes in sharp contrast to the austerity and privatisation policies championed by the Socialist government and the right-wing opposition Popular Party, will be financed by asking for a bigger contribution to rescuing the moribund economy from corporations and the rich:
- A 10% reduction in fraud by large companies
- Bringing back 10% of the black economy into view of the tax authorities
- Fully restoring a tax on assets abolished and then only partially restored in September by the Socialists
- Increasing by 5 percentage points corporation tax for banks and large companies
- Reducing exemptions, holidays and other tax gifts to the rich
- Boosting tax receipts through pro-employment policies
United Left argues that for every 1,000 euros spent on a job contract 585 euros will be returned to the Spanish Treasury in taxes and social security contributions.
And that’s without counting the positive knock on effect on the wider economy of that worker’s production and income that will be spent.
Scaled up, the United Left calculates that as a result of the 40 billion euros investment in jobs in what it has dubbed an alternative economic “shock” plan, a further 20 billion euros will be generated that can be used to create more jobs.
After a bank-fuelled housing bubble burst in 2007, Spain’s economy and public finances deteriorated rapidly and it was the victim of international financial speculation.
The socialist government of Jose Luis Zapatero responded by pursuing one of the most brutal austerity programmes in Europe which as elsewhere (and most notably Greece), has only added to the country’s economic woes.
Growth has not recovered and is faltering, the public finances remain disastrous and the country’s unemployment is at 22%, and a record 46% for the youth.
The Popular Party, leading in the polls for elections later this month, is remaining coy on its plans, vaguely promising “change”, but cannot shake off earlier promises of a neo-liberal “economic shock” plan.
Despite the demands for a new politics in Spain articulated by the indignados movement that exploded on the country’s streets and squares in the Spring, the mass media still sees the election as a two horse race between two parties pursuing very similar policies, designed to please international markets and the domestic banking and construction industry.
United Left, a force that includes communists and greens, is currently lagging in the polls at about 7%.