Former Prime Minister of Spain Addresses Georgetown Community on Financial Crisis

November 17, 2008

In a November 13 speech to the Georgetown community, former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar called for G-20 leaders meeting in Washington two days later to resist the temptation to intervene too heavily in the world financial system.

"Expansive intervention will be politically a present temptation," he said, "one very difficult to resist and avoid, but we must oppose it. We don't need more intervention. We know very well what State intervention achieved in the past."

A member of the conservative political party Partido Popular, Aznar made significant strides in moving the Spanish economy forward while serving as prime minister from 1996 to 2004. The economy generated 1.8 million jobs, more than the other European Union nations combined. The nation's economic growth almost doubled, and Aznar took steps to dismantle the country's welfare system. He also included women in some of the highest levels of government. As The Economist wrote at the time, Spain under Aznar was "riding high."

Noting the success of his conservative policies, Aznar warned that the system of capitalism isn't broken. We cannot "blame the market for the failures of the State," he said. He called on the public sector to implement austerity measures, including decreasing public expenditures, lowering taxes and reviewing "the model of regulatory and supervisory bodies to avoid political control and ensure their operational independence....In my years as a politician I learned that more times than not the State is the problem not the solution."

In assessing causes of the current crisis, Aznar also turned his attention to consumers. He criticized "a culture of instant gratification" and said that "without changing this attitude, no economy in the world could flourish again....We must become once again responsible people living responsible lives."

Aznar currently holds the position of Georgetown University Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership.

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