No pain, no gain

As the parliamentary vote on Pedro Sánchez's proposed 2019 budget nears (it's likely to happen this month or next), details are emerging about an ambitious project of the prime minister's. Called the "Agenda for Change", the initiative contains a raft of policies aimed at reducing social inequality and bolstering the Spanish economy. Available information about the Socialists' scheme shows it to be positive, progressive and, if put into action, likely to do Spain a lot of good. But the big question is whether this planned "Agenda for Change" will ever see the light of day.

Sánchez's plan, which be rolled out during the rest of this month, contains a number of policies designed to ensure the Spanish economy grows in a sustainable way - or, as El País newspaper put it in an editorial this week, in a "better way". This is particularly welcome news, as Spain's flashy GDP statistics (its expansion has proceeded at one of the fastest rates in the eurozone over the last four years) mask foundational problems that have yet to be addressed by the current government.

The Socialists' "Agenda for Change" aims at increasing the Spanish economy's productivity, with the ultimate goals of reducing unemployment and public debt. A more stable Spanish economy, invigorated by "bigger injections of human and technological capital", as El País said in its editorial, would in turn be able to support the higher levels of welfare spending proposed by the PSOE.

Sánchez's scheme is, as yet, vague on the details on how to achieve all of this. Yet even if it's nothing more than a collection of ideas at this stage, the "Agenda for Change" shows us a government that's trying to improve the lot of the average Spanish household. That Sánchez is a proactive leader is also evident from his recently unveiled plan on how to secure the rights of Britons in Spain and Spaniards in the UK in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Increasingly, he seems constrained only by the PSOE's minority status in congress rather than his own lack of ideas.

There is, however, a risk involved for Sánchez if he's to translate his economic and social policies from theory into reality. For that to happen, his proposed 2019 budget has to be put to a parliamentary vote; and if, as looks likely, the PSOE were to lose that vote, an early general election would probably be triggered.

The Spanish right's recent assumption of power in Andalucía indicates that the PSOE might suffer losses in that vote, too. Or perhaps it could go the other way, with Sánchez gaining support by calling an early election if he loses the budget vote: doing so would certainly be a gutsy move. Whichever way you look at it, though, the PSOE leader cannot move forward now without taking some big political risks.