Pedro Solbes (Pinoso, Alicante, 1942), former Vice President of the Government with José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has died this Saturday at the age of 80, according to El País and PSOE sources have confirmed. The Federal Executive Commission of the PSOE and the Federal Committee have expressed their regret this Saturday for the death of Solbes. "The socialist family wants to convey its love and appreciation to his family and loved ones, as well as to remember his exemplary career at the service of Spain and its institutions," they have expressed from the socialist party.
Solbes was an economist, lawyer, political scientist and politician. He was Minister of Economy and Second Vice President of the Government of Rodríguez Zapatero between 2004 and 2009. In 2011 he was appointed member of the Board of Directors of the Italian electric company Enel, owner of Endesa. He also served as an adviser to Barclays. In 2013 he published his memoirs, titled Memories. 40 years of public service.
His political career began as Secretary General of Economy and Finance in the PSOE, with Miguel Boyer as Minister. He also served as Secretary of State for the European Communities and was appointed Minister of Agriculture in 1991 under the presidency of Felipe González. Two years later he assumed the portfolio of Economy and Finance, a position he held until 1996.
Solbes also held the position of European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs between 1999 and 2004, when he joined the Zapatero Executive, repeating as Minister of Economy and Finance. Spain was then going through a period of economic prosperity, but the situation turned around with the financial crisis and the real estate bubble of 2008. This was the biggest challenge of his career.
Subsequently, Solbes repeatedly admitted that the government had underestimated the magnitude of the crisis. He left the Zapatero government in 2009, when he was replaced by Elena Salgado.
In an intervention before the commission of investigation of the Financial Crisis in Congress held in 2018, Solbes intoned the mea culpa and admitted that during the last two years of his term, 2008 and 2009, when the financial crisis had already broken out of the subprime and the first recession in Spain, he did not direct the economic policy.
In his speech, Solbes explained that three of the most publicized measures adopted in that period – the baby check of 2,500 euros; the tax reduction of 400 euros and the infrastructure plan E – were not to his liking, but he had to adopt them for partisan reasons and, among other reasons, because money had arrived from Europe that had to be spent. During those two years, Solbes acknowledged the discrepancies with the Prime Minister, Zapatero, a reason that finally led him to resign. He also accused the former president of being too aware of the unions.
The former minister did assume as his own "clear forecast errors in macroeconomic terms." He recalled that the Government anticipated a 2% recession in 2009, and the fall was 3.6%. "In 2010 -he continued- we believed that it was going to grow and return to normality, but the second recession arrived, with which we were totally wrong". The former minister assumed that [due to the proximity of the elections] "for two and a half months we hid the word crisis and talked about slowdown, for which we have paid dearly." Within the Executive he represented the defense of economic orthodoxy.
Solbes was married to María del Pilar Castro Rodríguez, a State Civil Administration technician, with whom he had a son and two daughters (Teresa, Miguel and Lucía). A polyglot, he spoke French, English, German and Catalan.