Calviño’s legacy… Is it historic?

Nadia proud spainSpanish former Minister of Economic Affairs Nadia Calviño

Fernando González Urbaneja| Nadia Calviño’s legacy after four and a half years at the helm of the Spanish economy is “historic”, as she herself concluded to journalists. Historic because of the excellent results of her policy, which is that of its president, since in this government nothing is unconnected to Pedro Sánchez. Juan Francisco Martín Seco, however, has reached another conclusion in the article published in “La República” a few hours ago with a wide range of data and judgements that deserve attention and that refute the triumphalist argument of the former minister, who is already installed in her new office in Luxembourg.

Nadia Calviño came to the government with no previous socialist affiliation, although she has shown a clear socialist sympathy even at party rallies. Her assets were her technical nature as a senior civil servant (an economist who earned her post through a competitive examination) both in Spain and in the European Union in Brussels, where she held top-level technical posts in competition, the internal market and, finally, budgets. These credentials served Sánchez from the outset to present to Brussels that there would be no heterodox drifts in Spanish economic policy.

During these years Spain has tried not to upset the countries of the North, nor to align itself decisively with those of the South. It has paid more attention to discourse than to facts. It has been diligent in requesting maximum aid from Brussels and in justifying the opportunity and convenience of such aid. The story has been well constructed and it has managed to receive the maximum support from the funds and to avoid becoming a net contributor to the Union. Such an achievement is no small feat when it has been accompanied by an internal discourse claiming that the Spanish economy’s performance was the best in the EU, exemplary and historic.

The data do not justify such optimistic conclusions or such a complacent self-assessment. Convergence with Europe in the Calviño period has not increased and the per capita income of Spaniards has not improved. Even inequality levels have hardly improved despite the social policy pursued by the government, generous in announcing subsidies to vulnerable families. All this has been financed with more debt, generously financed at low cost by the European Central Bank. Not a single budget has managed to achieve a minimum primary surplus, not even with the revenue obtained in years of growth and tax hikes.

Calviño and her ministry have lost almost all confrontations with Yolanda Diez’s Ministry of Labour, which has enjoyed the president’s support for its policy of making a virtue out of (electoral) necessity. The self-esteem of this government is historic, there is no precedent of a government as satisfied with its successes and its mistakes as this one. The principle of not admitting a single mistake and blaming the opposition, or circumstances, for all the country’s ills, has led to the construction of a narrative of conclusive and “historic” successes. This is an insufficiently corroborated opinion.

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.