OPINION

Pay up and set an example

In modern Western democracies, where individualism has undermined traditional family-based solidarity, social insurance is the minimum guarantee of a modicum of well-being in old age. It’s no surprise that the planned reform of the social security system constitutes the most sensitive political issue, capable of mobilizing even those who tend to shy away from strikes and protests. Workers react because they know that the proposed overhaul may jeopardize their hard-earned entitlements. It’s a fact that the social security system is heading for meltdown, sooner or later. However, the powers that be have exploited this, indulging in scaremongering to overcome widespread opposition. The social security issue has acquired a strong symbolism. It has become the hill around which the crucial battle rages for the dismantling of the welfare state in the name of adapting to the dictates of globalization. The social security issue must be studied without preconceptions or delusions that it can be solved once and for all. There are too many factors involved. At stake is the equilibrium of the system and for this reason it must be examined and adjusted every 10 or 15 years. But first we must deal with some chronic problems. The state has for decades plundered the funds. Its debt must be paid off in the context of a social agreement so that a new, healthy relationship can evolve. The state sets a bad example by evading payment of its social security contributions. Despite all this, the government wants to raise the retirement age. This may be necessary at some point. But before we get there, government officials must stop their game of hide-and-seek and enter serious negotiations. If they want to convince people of the need to curtail benefits, they will first have to meet their obligations. Or they will open the door to social turmoil.