Whilst Spain's outgoing economy minister is moving from the Spanish government to a top EU institution, his replacement is making the reverse journey. Mariano Rajoy announced this week that Romano Escolano, currently vice president of the European Investment Bank (EIB), will take over from Luis de Guindos, who is soon to become vice president of the European Central Bank. The destinations of these two trajectories couldn't be more different: one is a cushy office job in Frankfurt, far removed from the political front lines; and the other involves managing one of the most challenging portfolios in European politics.
On paper, at least, Escolano possesses the relevant experience. From 2000 to 2004 he was the chief economic advisor to then conservative prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, after which he moved to the private sector to become head of institutional relations at BBVA, a position he held until 2011. He was then head of the Spanish Official Credit Institute from 2012 to 2014, when he left to take up the vice presidency of the EIB. On June 1st, he will officially take up the role as Spanish economy minister, a job in which he will be presented with some daunting tasks.
One issue that is worth his attention is pay inequality in Spain. According to a recent study by the Foundation for Applied Economic Studies (FEDEA), women's hourly earnings are 12.7% less than those of men who perform similar tasks in similar workplaces. Although the FEDEA data does not show that women doing exactly the same jobs as men are being paid less (which is illegal under Spanish law), it does reveal that the lower hourly wage holds across variables such as age, education, length of working day and whether the contract is permanent or temporary.
Rajoy's government doesn't seem to consider this gender gap of great importance, although it has made noises about carrying out pay audits within the private sector, something to which the Spanish business community is unsurprisingly opposed. Perhaps this is an area in which Escolano cold be more proactive than his predecessor.
Alarming as the gender pay gap in Spain may seem, you sense that other matters will take priority with the incoming economy minister. One of his priorities will be Spain's problematic unemployment rate of 17% and how to reduce it; another will be trying to shrink the country's budget deficit; and last but certainly not least, it will be Escolano's task to ensure amicable economic relations between Spain and the UK during and after the latter's withdrawal from the EU.
And that's not all. The Zaragoza-born economist will take up a position in a minority government for which the passing of legislation is proving unprecedentedly difficult. No wonder De Guindos can't wait to get on the plane to Frankfurt.