I want a Spain bailout, now!

A calendar full of celebrations, knick knacks, corruption, furrowed brows–they owe me but they won’t pay–, and an infantile leadership. What a pathetic message for the youth, who unfortunately are likely to become indigent. (Oxfam report: if Spain maintains current economic policies the number of citizens living under the poverty line will reach the 40% by the end of the decade, compared to today’s 27%). The situation is very serious.

Europe and the markets are staring at us. Catholics and Protestants confronted post-Christmas holidays reentrée earlier than us. They are one week ahead of us, and GDP figures will show this fact. Less days at work means less production, which leads to a lower GDP. “So what!” the enthusiasts say. The parades celebrating the arrival of the Three Wise Men are nice and create employment. They might be a bit tacky, but they are monumental and they even serve an educational purpose!

When things take an unexpected turn, we turn our backs on Europe. The separation began with our latest Austrians. The Peace of Westfalia, in 1648, put an end to the Thirty Year’s War. That succession of battles that traumatised the continent also resulted in the segregation of Europe. A year later, in Rogensburg in 1652 the emperor of the sacred Roman Empire, a successor of Carlos V, failed to keep the European peoples united. They won’t accept a single authority. Nonetheless, they did achieve something even more important: a legal system for conflict resolution not based in the use of force.

Commerce prospers among new territories and independent cities–more than 300. At the same time, a currency exchange system ensures price stability, as well as convertibility. In the meantime, Spain is progressively getting away from the reforms. The country is rather focused in its overseas adventures and its royal and ecclesiastical absolutism. We keep ourselves apart. We prefer our empire in decline, where the prices rise faster than in the rest of Europe. An empire where “casticismo” (a Spanish expression referring to what is typical, pure and genuine of the country) is fostered to maintain people’s identity.

Ortega said: “Europe is the solution”. In other words: capitalism and the principle of legality overseen by the State, guarantor of the common good. Professional servants of the State who had to go through a compulsory competency test. These demands are gone. There’s no merit without good friends and scams. The market without competition rules is also vanishing. They are instead replaced by discriminatory privileges. Financial institutions ceased to be credible trustees to become speculators backed by the ruling elite.

Confusion invades the common good. Apologies and accusations are all over the place. The latest, the one of the Bank of Spain. During the past two mandates, did the Governor and the Board of Directors enjoyed the same autonomy than the Federal Republic? Didn’t this renowned German institution, during the years of the universal bubble also failed when it had to supervise its institutions?

Confusion moves forward. Arbitrary proposals for the privatization of hospitals without giving citizens any kind of reasonable arguments. Statements such “private organizations are more efficient than the public ones”, are presented as being convincing enough. Watch out! In this country private railway companies and freeways had to be rescued by the State. Madrid’s public highways will be the next invoice for tax payers. How are the costs of public and private hospitals estimated? It seems one should take into account fixed expenses, building construction, surgical equipment, furniture and health plan. Afterwards the variable costs will surge: remunerations, drugs and diverse maintenance epigraphs.

Nothing is said about these tiny details. Therefore, confusion storms. The only truth is that there exists a latent deficit. Plus the price deficit that comes when expected profits are not achieved. Meanwhile, the official message calls for austerity. A very tough remedy that had to be put in quarantine because the crisis is staying and the unemployment is rising. According to Eurostat data, in Spain there is a 26% of unemployment.

Telefonica follows Bankia’s generosity while it tries to find a position for this Cuban adventurer belonging to “Juventudes del PP” (the youth wing of Partido Popular). We shouldn’t forget the guy from Big Brother, who dispenses employment and other kind of goods. Councils with lots of legislators and with more counsellors than legislators. They offer counsel to Ministries while calls for public examinations to better access to the Administration vanish.

I insist: without the so much talked about ‘Spain bailout’ and the intervention of the Troika, we won’t clean up imbalances. Confusion will keep growing, including the Catalan situation. Too much incompetence that instead of convincing citizens, irritates them.

Naturally, the country resists. During the last three years, exports grew at almost the same pace than North America’s, around a 20%. There are essential differences, though: devalued dollar, export credit rising to a 25% in the US whereas it remains almost flat in Spain.

The government must be very busy. So busy that it has no time to think and take reasonable action. Companies struggle while they try to bring discipline to work attendance. In the last twelve months, Spanish exports kept growing regardless of the European crisis. A 5.2% compared to a previous 4.2% in France, whereas the Eurozone registered an average of 4.8%. With regard to exports we follow a similar trend than Germany’s.

Nonetheless, these figures are not enough to escape the standstill. The latest Indicator of the Industrial Climate grew a modest 0.4% in December, compared to November’s. This economic indicator is the average of three variables: total level of order in the industry, production expectations and level of stocks. Among the three, only the production expectations are positive, although they don’t cease to be expectations. But the orders fall again reaching a -39%, whereas the stocks grew. Winter is here. Too cold to sit on my bench in “El Retiro” (a popular park in Madrid). Well, I’ll go shopping, patriotically.

About the Author

Luis Alcaide
Luis Alcaide works as an economist for the Spanish government since 1961. He has been state adviser in the European Union and Bank of Spain director of communications. Alcaide published editorial articles in Spain's leading newspaper El País between 1977 and 1983, and in Diario 16 between 1985 and 1988. He regularly contributes to Economía Exterior and Política Exterior. He's founder member of Grupo Consejeros.

1 Comment on "I want a Spain bailout, now!"

  1. You say that after the 30 Years War Spain left Europe and focused herself into its overseas and declining empire. And you think that was wrong.
    I regret to disagree. My first question is what, exactly, did Spain get or benefited from its 16 and 17th centuries involvement with “Europe”? Spain should have never been “there” in the first place; and should have always minded its own business, which, incidentally, it is the one which correspond to a peripheral European country like we: the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Pacific (in those days and even more today, owing to its increasing importance), the Americas, Africa and our immediate European neighbourhood. That policy was the rationale behind the most enlighted of our monarchs, Carlos III, which coincided with a general renaissance of our education, our institutions, our economy, and every other aspect of our country.
    So less auto-deprecation, and more realization of what is important and what is not, of what is interesting for us and what is alien and should be left to the European peoples who like it. Efficiency, progress, industriousness, honesty, are not words related to any particular country; but to ideals.
    Do we behave today the way we should? Are we reveiving or generating the right advice to lead ourselves out of this situation? Are we getting the support and the understanding that we need to overcome theses circumstances? Should we ape what others, in their contexts -which might no be ours- do?

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