Spain's new economy minister faces tough task

8th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Elena Salgado’s lack of economic experience has raised many to question if she is capable of tackling the recession.

MADRID – Elena Salgado, named Spain's new economy minister Tuesday, is known for her strong work ethic, but her lack of economic experience compared to her predecessor has raised questions over her appointment.

Seen as one of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's most reliable cabinet members, she has served as health minister and since 2007 as public administration minister.

She is set to take charge as the Spanish economy, the fifth-largest in Europe, is going through its worst recession in a generation, which has pushed the unemployment rate to 15.5 percent in February, the highest in the EU.

So far as her economic experience is concerned however, the Spanish press has drawn unfavourable comparisons with her predecessor, Pedro Solbes.

Solbes is a former European commissioner who served as finance minister in the 1990s in a previous Socialist government.

Salgado, 59, was touted as a possible head of the World Health Organisation in 2006, although in the end the post went to China's Margaret Chan.

Born in 1949 in Ourense in Galicia in the northwest, one of Spain's poorest regions, she holds two degrees, one in industrial engineering and the second in economics.

She sat on the board of several public and private companies, including telecoms operator Telefonica and the state post office.

As health minister in 2006 she introduced a law making it illegal to smoke on public transport and the workplace, but not in restaurants and bars in a country that has one of the highest rates of smoking in the EU.

In a sign of the high level of confidence Zapatero has in her, she was trusted to oversee the EUR-11-billion stimulus package, mostly dedicated to public works, the government introduced last year to fight unemployment.

AFP / Expatica

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