Government must do more to expand public works programmes as a source of employment, including in provision of social services, cultural programmes as well as infrastructure.
Infrastructure is the foundation of economic expansion in Spain. The Spanish are masters of infrastructure development and they are not scared. They build huge roads on high bridges to take highways over mountains and huge tunnels to take highways though mountains. They link each and every part of their country with excellent roads and freeways. High speed trains that run at almost 300 kms an hour link their major cities and lower speed trains link everything else. Long distance bus services are superb, safe and co-ordinated to serve the whole country. Metropolitan public transport could not be better. Bigger cities such as Madrid, Bilbao and Barcelona have subway and surface rail commuter systems. Bus services are equally as good. Public transport in Bilbao is an excellent example. Besides the fastest and best subway system they also have a variety of different size buses as well as an interesting and effective modern tram that services the city centre. In Granada, children, invalids and pensioners travel free on the buses. National railways and metropolitan public transport are state or municipal owned. Spain had last year some 45 million tourists and much infrastructure has been created to handle the volumes including a modern efficient and brand new airport designed to cope with 70 million people a year. Yet we have been fiddling around with Johannesburg Airport for at least 40 years and we still have not built the proposed new airport in Durban. Spain looks after its cultural heritage. It preserves its antiquities, develops its art galleries, encourages arts and crafts. Its regional cultures make a visit worthwhile. They also have vision. The building of the Guggenheim Gallery, a masterpiece of modern design and engineering in Bilbao has brought more than 2 million visitors to a city that can only be explained as industrial. How about a Guggenheim-Africa on the top of the Bluff! We are improving on protecting and developing our heritage, particularly in terms of reviving our ancient past, but more can be done. Cultural activities and the arts provide employment and interest to both domestic and international tourists. The support to sport is obvious, a few weeks ago in Seville, a newspaper headline read, “Spanish Sporting Glory” (translated) Seville FC had won the UEFA Cup, Barcelona FC had won the Champions League, Rafael Nadal had won the Italian Open tennis tournament, Fernando Alonso had won the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix and they had two winners at the International Motorcycle Grand Prix. How do we get there? Not by the way that we run soccer, rugby or any other sport for that matter. It is time for a new look at the huge pool of unexploited talent available in South Africa.The provision of quality education and other basic services must be guaranteed to all South Africans at an affordable cost.High literacy and a healthy population are rights we should all be enjoying. I did not experience how Spain deals with education and other basic services. However recently I had a debate with an English immigrant who is a practising psychologist and some South African teachers about the merits of free education. The teachers opposed it on the basis that free education was unaffordable and that the elites, the workers and the poor would mingle and break down class structures. The psychologist informed us that she came from a working class family in England. Without the free education that she had received up to post graduate level, she would not now be a psychologist but rather a shop floor worker like her father and mother before her. Free education is not only about improving our population it is also about crossing the divide. It is inevitable that class structures will never entirely be broken down, but quality education goes a long way. What I did notice in Spain was that most car owners drive small and medium cars, very few of the large luxury sedans or SUVs are to be seen.The state must end understaffing, which places an intolerable burden on public servants.Early morning in Madrid and many of the larger cities in Spain are characterised by hosts of street cleaners who scrub the places clean every day. They are followed by traffic police that man most intersections and keep the traffic moving. On the highways there are constant patrols and state security personnel that board each and every train. Have you tried to get a driving licence or an identity card or passport lately? Not only do you stand in line for a long time, the process time adds to your woes. The public service fails us in many areas in terms of the burden placed on public servants and the lack of delivery in many areas but it’s greatest failure is the unemployment cost of staffing cuts. The Pilgrimage
Surprises abound on a pilgrimage. In a small Galician village I stopped for a beer. The barman was an elderly and studious looking gentleman, he had many old photos of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and other Cuban revolutionaries hung around the bar including one of himself and Che taken at Santa Clara in Cuba in 1959. I spent about two hours and a few more beers listening to his tales of the revolution.The pilgrimage to Santiago has been going on for over a thousand years. In the last 10 or so years the Spanish Government has encouraged the development of various routes through Spain as a tourist initiative. It is expected that some 650 000 pilgrims will reach Santiago this year. This provides an economic boost to many villages and small farming communities throughout northern Spain I am sure that something can be done along the same lines in South and Southern Africa. Walking tourism is becoming a big thing. We may not have a St James the Apostle, but we do have many sites of historic importance and a beautiful country.We have had many visionary leaders and we have accomplished great things. Yet it seems to many that the battle is won and new voices are not heard. On the pilgrimage to Santiago, many was the time that I had plodded wearily up a long and winding path and felt relief as I got to the top only to realise that the downhill was a rocky path and that an even longer hill was awaiting. On one of the sections my map read that my next destination was 19 kms away when in reality it was 32 kms. On another day I misjudged the terrain and was still walking at 8.30 at night before finding a place to sleep. One of the hills continued for 17 kms without a bar or cafe or shop or lodging. Our hard won liberty is not a short journey. Like a pilgrimage there are many more hills to climb, many rivers to cross and many bridges to build before we can sleep!
Greg Stanley is a Numsa worker representative at Toyota, Durban.