Spanish parties bicker over ‘national pact’ for post-coronavirus reconstruction

The number of COVID-19 related deaths rose by 551 to 19,130 on Thursday (16 April) while 5,183 new infections had been detected within the last 24 hours bringing Spain's total to 182,816. [EPA/BALLESTEROS]

The socio-economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus in Spain has prompted political wranglings over a national pact for the country’s reconstruction. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.

Spain’s socialist Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, has proposed a national pact for the economic and social “reconstruction” of the country, calling on all political parties, regional governments and social actors such as trade unions to take part.

However, the largest opposition group, the conservative Popular Party (PP) led by Pablo Casado, did not agree on a date to sit down with Sánchez. And the far-right Vox and the pro-Catalan group CUP both declined the invitation altogether.

While the PP has been critical of the government’s handling of the crisis, other parliamentary groups, many critical of Sánchez, have agreed to hold discussions on Thursday and Friday.

As political parties laid bare their differences, the idea of a national pact seems to find an echo among an immense majority of the Spanish people.

According to public research institute CIS, 91.4% of the Spanish population back a “special effort” and sweeping political agreements to tackle the economic crisis. The poll was carried out over a sample of 3,000 respondents surveyed in the first week of April.

Since the lockdown came into effect, the crisis has already wiped 890,000 jobs from Spain’s labour market, figures similar to those recorded in the 10 months that followed the 2008-2009 financial crisis. At least 3.9 million workers have been affected by temporary lay-offs, especially in retail and tourism.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 related deaths rose by 551 to reach a total of 19,130 on Thursday (16 April) while 5,183 new infections had been detected within the last 24 hours bringing Spain’s total to 182,816.

Health Minister Salvador Illa attributed the 2.9% rise in infection rate to the increased testing of asymptomatic carriers.

When it comes to the number of COVID-19 infections, Spain remains one of the worst-affected countries in terms of coronavirus cases, behind the US. In terms of fatalities, it is just behind the US and Italy.

Besides the human toll, economists have warned of “choppy waters” ahead as the country begins to consider its COVID-19 exit schedule.

The IMF has predicted that Spain’s economy could contract by 8%, while unemployment could surge by 20.8% as a result of the lockdown the government enforced on 14 March and the two week period of “economic hibernation” in place at the beginning of April.

Spain to resume some activities, but lockdown remains 'firmly in place'

As Spain prepares to allow some workers to resume activities Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez warned that the lockdown remained in place and that things would not go back to the way they were.

(Edited by Frédéric Simon)

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