I am very concerned that politicians, instead of helping citizens, become a problem,” says María Jesús Montero (Seville, 1966) with that uncomplexed way of speaking with which she confronts journalists’ questions every Tuesday. the press conferences after the councils of ministers.
On this occasion, the Minister of Finance talks with EL PAÍS on Christmas Eve. The Senate has just approved the Budgets for 2021.
They are probably the most important accounts in the democratic history of Spain, because they will serve to face an unprecedented health and economic crisisand because they contain an unprecedented increase in spending and investments thanks to the 27,000 million euros from European aid.
She is exultant for having carried out the project with the greatest parliamentary support in the annals of Congress and in a hurry because in a couple of hours she has to catch an AVE that will take her to Seville where she will spend Christmas with her family. To that Seville she longs for, where her two daughters and her parents await her.
But María Jesús Montero defends, with that overflowing energy that she gives off in public despite the fact that she only has a coffee in her stomach and has been awake for almost 10 hours, that “politics, for those who have nothing, is the only instrument to change things, to change reality ”.
He says it the week in which the CIS publishes a survey that reveals that politicians are the fifth problem for Spaniards and growing. “Many times politics does not adequately connect with that social sensitivity, which translates into noise in Congress, news that may be anecdotal, but draws attention to discussions, distances citizens from politics and that is the point. main breeding ground for totalitarianism ”.
Therefore, he adds: “There are some who are interested in this polarization of life and politics, those that move in extremes. They are always interested in fighting, because they move in a simplistic, binary position, which does not correspond to reality.
Everything is always much more complex because life is much more complex, and moving in that populism that means yes or no, instead of in the world of nuances ”.
He says he knows what he’s talking about. In his life he has traveled through different worlds. He remembers how at the age of 14 he started in Catholic Action, a religious association, which in the eighties brought together the progressive wing of the Church.
At that time he met a communist priest in the Sevillian Triana neighborhood, where he was born, who instilled in him some of the values that he preserves and applies in politics. His eyes light up when he remembers his youth, when he started with social activism.
He says that Christians in the party, communists in the church , a book by Alfonso Comín, marked him deeply because it helped him overcome that dichotomy of being on the left in an environment as conservative as the Catholic Church of the time and vice versa, being Catholic in an organization so refractory to religion.
Then came the university years, in which he studied medicine, although he hardly practiced it. Soon he began to work in the management of hospitals in Andalusia. She was deputy director of the Virgen del Rocío Hospital in Seville, the jewel in the crown of Andalusian health.
In 2002, he received a call from the president of the Board at the time, Manuel Chaves, and since then he has held positions with increasing political responsibility. “It is one of the best experiences of my life and one of which I feel tremendously proud,” she says about the time when she dedicated herself to developing the Andalusian health system.
How does a doctor end up being Minister of Finance ? I have always had a clear vocation of public service and social commitment, it is something almost innate during my life, which I have also cultivated throughout my personal history.
My parents are teachers and they have always brought those values to the family education environment. And maybe that’s why I studied medicine. I feel absolutely linked to the health system, I think it is the best profession in the world, which allows us to understand the body of the person, but also his soul.
The coronavirus pandemic, without a doubt, has marked the year. It has left thousands of deaths and a trail of suffering. The Government has lived its most difficult year with two states of alarmand trying to plug the multiple routes of sanitary and economic waters.
“During the pandemic, 34 decree laws have been approved. It has been a titanic effort to minimize the damage of this health pandemic and I think that there are the results in terms of not having caused a hemorrhage, a bleeding in the labor field, not having caused a massive closure of companies, having at least managed to maintain a situation that has been very complicated.
It has been a very intense year. We have left our skin so that in the end we have reached this moment with vaccines since yesterday [for Sunday]. It has been a transit of enrichment, but also of a lot of sacrifice and pain ”.
In this sense, he assures that the Government is not yet talking about a plan to rebalance the accounts as requested by some organizations.
“We believe it is important to develop an anti-cyclical policy, we must give this policy a chance, so that the productive fabric that is there, and that we saw in the third quarter, is able to stimulate itself and is therefore able to respond to the challenge It has posed us as a collective, as a society.
Therefore, I do not believe that it is the moment, either in economic policy, or in public service provision policy, to be focused on how we prepare an adjustment plan. The important thing now is recovery and time will have to establish a rebalancing plan, when the European authorities so demand or when the political and economic moment also demands it.
The minister says that despite being a doctor, he has not managed the health crisis, but the economic one. “It is true that although whenever there is a health project I see it with special interest. The health minister knows it, because I like it, and I also find them exciting ”, he confesses.
“Have you had the impulse to advise Minister Illa?”
“I’m very classical politics.” At least from the school that I have always been taught, that one has to keep a certain distance from the policies that one has previously practiced.
Montero is the first woman to hold the Treasury portfolio (after Elena Salgado, when the Finance and Economy ministries were a single department), a key ministry in the architecture of the State, complex and almost endless.
It is said that a government is actually a coalition between the Ministry of Finance and the other ministries, although in this term the political game has been complicated with the first coalition Executive of Spain.
“I think it has a part of the truth, but there is a part of the myth,” he says about the power attributed to his portfolio, which will play a crucial role in the management of European funds. “It is true that this ministry is permanently obliged to dialogue with all the departments about their needs.
And this budget project has put our negotiation skills to the test, of dialogue, of understanding the position of the other, of looking for alternatives to proposals that you cannot accept ”. It rejects dogmatisms and values negotiation and consensus: “I would have been delighted to agree andalso negotiate a budget with the PP.
And I believe, unlike some who think that options are always exclusive, I believe that at this moment in the country there was no room for crossed vetoes, it was not possible to exclude anyone, but rather to try to incorporate, although what it incorporates does not distort the basic progressive skeleton ”.