Socialists flout Spain's church . . . but not its bankers
After nearly two months in office, Spain's new Socialist government is showing every sign of being determined to fully ''Westernize'' this country. It is pushing firmly ahead with the introduction of bold reforms in public administration as well as social legislation in line with that of most other West European countries.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The Socialists, who have one of the largest parliamentary majorities in Europe, evidently intend to push through even some of the more daring changes they promised, such as the legalization of therapeutic abortion.
But this forward thrust is balanced by a much more cautious attitude toward the economy. Economic policy so far has been far from socialistic. It resembles that of the former centrist government.
Perhaps most important for the future of Spain's still young democracy, even the armed forces seem content with a strong government and ''these young nationalists.''
Spanish bureaucrats were the first to be jarred by the Socialist morality campaign and reforming zeal of Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez. The new government immediately announced its intention to enforce the conflict-of-interest legislation approved by Parliament last year.
Civil servants, including government ministers, parliamentary representatives , and top executives of state companies will be allowed only one salary and one job. Furthermore, no civil servant or state company executive will be allowed to receive a higher salary than that of the prime minister (8 million pesetas a year, equal to $61,500 at the present exchange rate). More than one top executive in a state-controlled company has seen his salary slashed in half. And at the bottom end, moonlighting days are over.
But the law of ''incompatibilidades'' as it is called here, is not the worst for Spain's formerly privileged civil servants. They now have to be on time and punch in at 8 a.m.
Accustomed to a leisurely workweek of some 26 to 28 hours that permitted moonlighting in the private sector, they now have to work a full 8 1/2-hour day with just an hour lunch break.
Although civil servants, who number approximately 1 million, have more or less resigned themselves to a more efficient workday, the medical profession is gearing for battle. Doctors and nurses are threatening a nationwide strike, pending further talks with the Health Ministry.
Multiple employment has been a time-honored tradition both in the national health service and in public administration.
Civil servants at the bottom of the scale are demanding some compensation for the new work ethic. Salaries that are lower than the public sector equivalents were generally considered acceptable due to the ''flexible'' workday, especially for working mothers.
These women are especially hard hit, as they now have no place to leave the children before school, which begins at 9:30 a.m. The first week of the reform saw scores of nursery and school-aged children hanging around in the various ministries from 8 to 9 a.m.
''I punch in at 8 now with my children,'' said a secretary who is a mother of three. ''Then I go to the cafeteria to give them breakfast. The school bus agreed to pick them up here at the ministry.''
But the boldest reform - one that is almost polemical - was just announced last week. The government will include therapeutic abortion in the urgent reform of the Spanish legal code that the Cabinet is expected to approve Feb. 2.
The decision to include therapeutic abortion in the legal reform caught most Spaniards by surprise. It indicates that the Socialists intend to carry through on their electoral promises.
The modification of the law would depenalize abortion in certain cases such as rape or where the mother's life was in danger. It has already caused outrage from the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and the conservative opposition party, Popular Alliance.
But daring social and legal reforms have been compensated by an extremely moderate economic policy vaguely outlined by the ''superminister'' of commerce, economy, and treasury, Miguel Boyer. He has already pushed through an 8 percent devaluation of the peseta and energy price hikes, and he claims inflation will be his main priority. Bankers and businessmen nodded approval.
Many economists have already begun to point out that some of the economic measures undertaken smack of an austerity or stabilization plan. This contradicts measures such as the reduction of the workweek to 40 hours (from 46) , or an increase of social security pensions, promises of future welfare programs that are now practically nonexistent, or goals of stabilizing unemployment, (at present 16.5 percent of the workforce, the highest in Europe).
''Businessmen, bankers, and workers will swallow certain Socialist attitudes or measures that would have caused an outrage if they had been proposed by the former government,'' wrote Juan Rosell Lastortras in an editorial in the conservative business daily Cinco Dias. ''We now have no doubt,'' Lastortras wrote, summing up the first six weeks of Socialist government, ''that they intend to govern.''