Social Policy Against Poverty and Political Autonomy in the Basque Country

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The Basque Country has used its devolved powers to develop a noticeably more robust and ambitious anti-poverty policy than the other autonomous regions in Spain, and indeed the central government itself. This policy has, in general terms, enjoyed a broad consensus among the region’s leading political parties, and has never been the subject of large-scale controversies or corrections. Even in moments of intense political tension caused by debates on national identity (and particularly in relation to the terrorist acts committed by ETA), the fight against poverty has remained a firm regional policy and a clear area of consensus.

Alongside other social and cultural policies and initiatives to foster economic and industrial expansion and research, development and innovation activities, the fight against poverty has become a hallmark of Basque society – a society that enjoys a high level of cohesion and which has a more competitive economic model than the majority of other Spanish autonomous regions. It is perhaps important to point out here that the Basque Country is characterised by firm family and community values and a strong sense of solidarity, with definite Christian roots (common to all parties to a certain extent), which may partly explain the emergence of certain other phenomena also, such as the large-scale cooperative movement located in Mondragón.

Whatever the case, we can see it is vital to improve coordination between the minimum income guarantee policy and other social policies (social services, pensions, employment, etc.), and it is necessary to recuperate and reinvent the role of the family and community networks in social protection and development at different scales. It is also very important to strengthen continuous (and accurate) assessment, participatory governance (with the Third Sector) and effective management (making efficient use of technology), so as to ensure that policies designed to fight against poverty avoid the risks of clientelism and paternalism, and are as flexible and stimulating as possible.

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