His Way Works; Spain's Zapatero May Have Quietly Found the Secret to Balancing High Economic Growth and Social Harmony

Newsweek International, April 24, 2006 | Go to article overview

His Way Works; Spain's Zapatero May Have Quietly Found the Secret to Balancing High Economic Growth and Social Harmony


Byline: Stryker Mcguire and Eric Pape (With Mike Elkin, Cathleen McGuigan and Alex McRae)

Shortly after Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero became Spain's prime minister, his chief economic adviser ran a little business-school experiment. Go out and start a company, Miguel SebastiAn told a handful of aides. Sure enough, they were quickly caught up in the morass of red tape that ensnarls most startups looking to hire (and, if need be, fire) employees in one of Europe's least business-friendly labor markets. "It was so complicated they quit," says SebastiAn, formerly chief economist for Spain's second-largest bank. "The P.M. was appalled."

For Spain's young leader, just 43, it was the first of many crystallizing moments. Taking power two years ago this week, in the aftermath of the infamous Madrid bombings, Zapatero came to office as a lefty bent on reforming Spain's hidebound and highly conservative social landscape. But quickly he came to recognize a fundamental fact of political life: if he were going to transform Spanish society with his left hand, he would have to manage the economy with his right.

He's done so with a quiet dexterity that many Spaniards--and certainly the rest of Europe--have barely noticed. Neighboring France and Italy, in particular, would do well to start paying attention. With their political elites paralyzed, and their populaces terrified by the prospect of tough reforms, Europe's traditional powers see no third way between their unsustainable social-welfare systems and so-called Anglo-Saxon capitalism. Zapatero may have found just that: in only two years he's given Spain its first budget surplus in two decades. In that time, joblessness has dropped from 12 percent to 8.7 percent. Having created 60 percent of all new jobs in the European Union last year, the Spanish economy is projected to grow by 3.3 percent in 2006--impressive by European standards.

Zapatero has managed this feat largely by following in the footsteps of his right-wing predecessor Jose Maria Aznar, embracing dramatic fiscal reforms and adding his own tax cuts and entrepreneurship incentives. But he's maintained his left-wing support with equally striking social reforms. Half of his government's cabinet ministers are women. New legislation cracks down on gender violence and promotes equal incomes in the workplace. Gay men and women are not only free to marry but can adopt children. Divorce has been made easier; mandatory religious education in state schools is a thing of the past. Smoking has been restricted in public spaces and amnesty granted to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. "We are witnessing social changes that were unimaginable three or four years ago," says Manuel Monzon, a Barcelona film producer.

Zapatero's successes are the more remarkable for the fact that they were so unexpected. He was projected to lose to Aznar's hand-picked heir, Mariano Rajoy, in the 2004 elections. But then came the Madrid bombings of March 11, and the government's misguided efforts to pin the blame on Basque terrorists when the evidence in fact pointed to Al Qaeda. Three days later, angry voters turned away from Aznar's Popular Party at the polls and swept Zapatero's socialists into power. Whether he was actually prepared to govern remains an open question. But compared with his seasoned predecessor, he did seem a political lightweight--dubbed "Bambi," no less, by pundits even before he took office.

Tyro or no, Spain's new leader has smartly taken a leaf from another social democrat once derided as a "Bambi" for his supposed inexperience and naA[macron]vete--Britain's Tony Blair. Like Blair, who in 1997 began as prime minister by embracing 18 years of Thatcherite economic reforms, Zapatero was quick to see that he could only sell the social measures he ran on against a background of strong growth.

That heady combination of social freedom and economic vibrancy seems to have given the entire country a lift.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

His Way Works; Spain's Zapatero May Have Quietly Found the Secret to Balancing High Economic Growth and Social Harmony
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.