Public administration does not work

escrivaPublic Administration Minister, José Luis Escrivá

Fernando González Urbaneja | Public systems are not working; waiting lists in hospitals are lengthening; primary care services are collapsing; and Social Security and SEPES offices are not responding…

Miguel Valverde one of the best informed journalists on pensions and labour relations describes in Monday’s Expansión what he calls the “Colapso de la Seguridad Social”. It is impossible to get an appointment by telephone or in person. This has been happening for months, at least since the pandemic. The serious thing is that nothing is happening, that the ministry responsible is not taking action, is not taking measures to resolve the collapse. A failure that justifies the resignation of those responsible, starting with the minister, lavish with words and reproaches to others, but short on diligence to make his ministry “work”.

The same goes for the Ministry of Labour and its Employment Offices (SEPES). Another case of a minister who is demanding of others, with easy and accusatory words, but little diligence or efficiency in making public offices work. She transfers the workload to companies and threatens them with administrative non-compliance; but the same demands are not applied.

The fact is that a few years ago both public services worked well; pensions were processed in a few days, as were unemployment benefits. Appointments at the offices were immediate and officials solved problems within a few days. As an excuse, they say that Social Security civil servants have lost 6,700 staff (from 28,700 in 2020 to 22,000 today), but the government is responsible for this decline. More seriously: public sector staff numbers have grown considerably in recent years, but not in the areas of most concern to citizens. Health, pensions, benefits.

The fact is notorious, as is the lack of response, of a sense of duty on the part of governments (state and regional) to address it. The case of healthcare is alarming (as is that of pensions), as is the lack of determination to make the system work, to halt the deterioration and restore the confidence of citizens, including that of the workers in these services who are overwhelmed and neglected.

To reverse inequalities, much more important than the handing out of subsidies is to restore the effectiveness of the social lift, of efficient health and education services. This happened in the last two decades of the 20th century but has failed in the last decade, a period of waste and disappointment.

About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.