No Minister

Alberto GarzónAlberto Garzón, Spanish Minister for Consumer Affairs

J.P. Marín Arrese | Politicians coming into office usually trust the advice of professional and seasoned civil servants, thus preventing ill-judged decisions or blunders likely to ruin their careers. Top aides excel at dismissing fancy ideas while pretending to obey them. That is the case in Germany, the UK or France. Alas, in Spain, they seldom follow that pattern, preferring to surround themselves with friends and inexperienced party fellows. If they also lack any common sense, disaster looms ahead. The Spanish Minister in charge of consumers policy has recently provided a fine example of sheer recklesness.

Mr Garzón unwisely warned The Guardian’s readers about the bad quality of the meat exported to Britain from Spain. His remarks targeted industrial farms harming the environment and paying little attention to animal welfare. Yet, not a single consumer knows whether the meat comes from those facilities or the ones preserving high standards. Fortunately, they also ignore its origin, as the UK butchers only herald British and Irish beef. But, wholesalers may buy less Spanish meat just in case.

Discrediting home products abroad stands as the kind of conduct no responsible Minister would ever undertake. Being aware of a severe problem, Mr Garzón was bound to solve it. Denouncing it in the foreign press only underlines his lack of action and sheer contempt for his fellow citizens. As the meat sold in Spain and the one sent to the UK are much the same, why should he protect British consumers while exposing Spaniards to potential side effects? His duty lies in shielding consumption at home from undue practices or products: Trumpeting own shortcomings abroad can only benefit third-country exporters.

The Opposition parties have jumped in, calling for his resignation or swift dismissal. On the eve of regional elections in Castille, Mr Garzón’s disregard for the livestock sector shatters all hopes of the Socialist Party in securing a decent score. His skill in propelling the incumbent right-wing candidate into power shows a prominent sense of political ineptitude. As PM Sánchez refrains from firing him from governmental office, ultimately, he will take all the blame. Podemos may prove an unreliable partner, but he holds full responsibility for keeping on board Ministers utterly unfit for the job, thus sapping the whole Cabinet delivery. Those ready to overturn the current coalition in power may welcome the meat blunder as an unexpected gift, but it does little good for the country.

About the Author

JP Marin Arrese
Juan Pedro Marín Arrese is a Madrid-based economic analyst and observer. He regularly publishes articles in the Spanish leading financial newspaper 'Expansión'.