September 22, 2020

José Luis Escrivá, new Minister of Social Security, Inclusion and Migration

If Pedro Sánchez wanted to choose a professional for his Executive who stood out for his high qualification and independence, he has given the full appointment of José Luis Escrivá Belmonte (Albacete, 58 years old) as Minister of Social Security, Inclusion and Migration, a new portfolio that loses Labor competencies, which pass to a ministry in the hands of Yolanda Díaz, of United We Can.

Escrivá is currently the president of the Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility (AIReF), an institution created in 2014 by the imposition of Brussels to oversee the accounts of the Public Administrations, whose six-year term ends this February. The passage through this institution allows you to have a deep knowledge of the functioning of the Public Administration that, together with your experience in the financial world, places you in a good position to face your main challenge: the reform of the public pension and Social Security system .

Bachelor of Economics from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), with an extraordinary degree award, began his career at the Bank of Spain, where he held different positions in the Research Department. Subsequently, he jumped to the EU as an advisor to the European Monetary Institute to be subsequently appointed Head of the Monetary Policy Division of the European Central Bank.

Independent professional

The future minister managed to keep AIReF out of the interference of politicians despite the number of reports that have questioned policies and grants that go from the pharmaceutical expense at active employment policies going through the industry aid or to the house.

Escrivá’s career at the head of the supervisory body explains well the qualities of this methodical technocrat defender of “the improvement of the public in a systematic way, with a rigorous methodology, based on international evidence and comparisons”, which before falling back on the Public institution was director for the Americas of the Basel International Bank for Payments. The obligation to create an independent supervisor to ensure compliance with the budget stability objective by order of Brussels led the then Minister of Finance, Christopher Montoro, to propose the presidency. Little could Montoro imagine that the independent and professional mood of his choice was going to bring him so many problems.

Up to five times, Escrivá presented his resignation as president of the AIReF before the resistance of the different administrations to his supervisory work. First, due to the attempt of the same PP that appointed him to reduce the powers of the organization in the phase of its creation, he subsequently presented his cessation due to obstacles to access to information, due to the Treasury’s refusal to transfer human resources and an adequate budget, also for the attempts of Patrimony to expel it from the building where they were located and finally for the refusal of the ministry of Montoro to pay a salary supplement.

Curiosities of the policy, the State lawyer who was director of the Institutional Legal Division of the Airef and who then fought against Montoro for more resources and more personnel is the current mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida.

Tenacious and skilful negotiator, absolute detractor of the Spanish tradition of not changing a policy “because it has always been done that way”, his longing for maximum consensus led him to meet with all the political groups of the Congress although he had the absolute majority of the PP to ensure his appointment as president of the AIReF. Without political ascription, although his appointment aroused some distrust in the PSOE for his opinions against the management of the crisis of President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero when Escrivá was head of studies at BBVA, he secured the support of all political groups except United Left.

This interest in achieving the agreement may facilitate its relationship with the Government partners, although it has previously had more than one encounter with which it will be the Secretary of State for Social Economy, Nacho Álvarez, for him AIReF report on Posts.

Perfect connoisseur of the Public Administration and the different levels of the Spanish civil servant, his confrontation with the Court of Accounts was also particularly hard, from where both his appointment and the creation of the AIReF was always seen as an interference that was going to stir the quiet Waters of this wealthy public institution.

Pension and Social Security Reform

Although Pedro Sánchez strips the Ministry of Labor, so that it falls into the “quota” of portfolios of United Podemos, it reserves in its hands a key area that the Socialists did not want to lose: Social Security, with pensions as ‘jewel’ of the ministry Until now, Social Security has been directed by the socialist Magdalena Valerio, one of Pedro Sánchez’s “unconditional” since he began his leadership towards the general secretary of the PSOE.

The reform of the public pension and Social Security system is the main challenge of the portfolio that will now be directed by Escrivá. This commitment appears in the government program presented by Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias, for which the new Executive will seek political consensus in the parliamentary commission of the Toledo Pact, as well as the social one (with the unions and the employers’ association).

The progressive coalition government is committed to eliminating the two key elements of the pension reform unilaterally approved by Mariano Rajoy in 2013: the Sustainability Factor and the Social Security Pension Revaluation Index, which caused the criticized annual increases of 0 , 25%.

The solution provided by the supervisor directed by Escrivá went for other courses. The AIReF proposed as recipe to end the pension deficit in the short term and to maintain the sustainability of the Social Security system in the long term, transfer the Social Security deficit to the State as a whole and, in the long term, delve into the 2011 pension reform, with increases in the effective age of retirement.

Another of the challenges highlighted by the new Government is its commitment to develop “Minimum Vital Income as a Social Security benefit”, which seeks to combat inequality and poverty and that will begin by fighting against child poverty. At the head of the AIReF, Escriva published a report that states that with a minimum income with a fiscal cost of only 3,500 million euros could be reduced by 60.4% severe poverty in Spain benefiting 1.8 million households with this measure.

Improve refugee reception

Migrations will continue under the responsibility of this Ministry, which adds the title “Inclusion”. Amid the anti-immigration speech of the extreme right-wing party Vox, the AIReF under the direction of Escrivá demonstrated with data the need for immigration to sustain the public pension system. The report argues that the arrival of migrants will act in the coming years as an “adjustment mechanism” given the shortage of national labor in the next 30 years.

The agreement of the progressive Executive includes in this area the modification of the national system of reception and inclusion of applicants for International Protection, as well as the elaboration of a new Asylum Law (which depends more on Interior).

At present, the state reception network is generally 100% occupied, which leaves many people “on the waiting list”. This, coupled with the lack of local social care facilities, it causes situations of helplessness, such as those of asylum seekers sleeping outdoors in Madrid, among which are children.


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