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OPINION
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Proximity

Symptoms of a kind of autism syndrome are present in all of Spain's political parties

Enrique Gil Calvo

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It is clearer every day that the syndrome suffered by our political class, which may earn them a sharp kick such as the one the Italian politicians have just received, is what might be called civil autism: a lack of social proximity, an inability to communicate with the citizen, to empathize with the feelings on the street - a contempt for the daily problems of the people.

Symptoms of the autism syndrome are present in all the political parties. Offhand, one can point to the Catalan nationalists' obsession with self-determination, while the Catalan public services are falling to pieces; the Socialists' incapacity to notice the public indignation aroused by dirty deals (purchasing a mayoralty while alienating the feminine sensibility); the venality of party officials (the Bárcenas and Barcina cases)... And all the while, the poorer classes feel the pinch caused by austerity measures.

But today I wish to point to two other, extreme examples of this political deficit. The first is small but highly significant, as it concerns the politicians' all-too-obvious insensibility to the problem of household evictions. It is truly scandalous that it has had to be the European Court of Justice that at last acknowledged the daily violation of the rights of our poorer citizens, routinely expelled from their homes by a bank bureaucrat's usurious stroke of a pen: the "banality of evil" in a pure state. Well, until the magistrates in Luxembourg ruled on the matter, no Spanish government had deigned to turn its attention to this ignominy. It had to be the Mortgage Victims Association (PAH) that undertook the titanic task of gathering over a million signatures, with the invaluable aid of the May 15 networks, forcing the Spanish parliament to admit their petition to consideration. Such is our political caste's disdain for the average citizen, until the EU ruling obliged them to actually do something.

An even better example, since it affects every one of us, is found in the planned reform of local government. I have referred before to this law, which raised some promising expectations: its initial handling by consensus between all groups (government, opposition, the municipalities) and its federalization of municipal spending (to prevent the corruption of local bosses).

Spanish public administrations have inclined to proud isolation from the citizen, who stood outside the bureaucrat's little window

But since the details have begun to emerge, the high hopes look more and more like a mirage. Consensus has broken down into irreconcilable discord, and as for municipal spending, it is hard to see what will become of it - probably the same thing as ever. In fact, it may represent a turn to the worse, since the plan seems to annul the politics of proximity.

Since their origin in the days of absolutism, Spanish public administrations have inclined to proud isolation from the citizen, who stood outside the bureaucrat's little window.

The only level of administration that operated in proximity to the citizen was the municipal one, which, apart from being run by persons residing locally, was in charge of many of the more redistributive public services, such as obligatory schooling and social services.

Well, with the excuse of rationalizing and reducing public spending, the Ministry of Finance and Public Administrations seems determined to expropriate proximity services from the local councils, giving them to the Madrid-appointed provinces and to the regions, which will thus have an easy excuse to privatize them.

What a huge mistake! If the object was to avoid regional/municipal duplication, it should have been done the other way: remove these services from the relatively distant regional governments to the local level of greater proximity. If the local citizen is now to be deprived of proximity public services, democracy in Spain will recede a step further into distance and diminution of moral authority.

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