Corruption dirties Spain’s brand


The irruption of the Bárcenas case in the Spanish political scene has brought to a tipping point a series of relevant and worrisome events whose modern historical roots were set at the beginning of the switch to democracy in the 1980s. The case has rightly sounded all alarms as it shows a deep deterioration of the Spanish social structures. It has also uncovered the truth behind the fiction in which most of the country lives every day.

Spaniards witness amid perplexity, indignation and confusion the news about corruption, fiscal evasion and irregular economic activity, all of which sparks a growing disaffection against political parties and their leaders.

Most observers of the Spanish current affairs speak of surprise and disbelief for the stoicism with which the citizens endure the revelations, a reaction that can only be linked to a society accustomed to understand that nothing is what appears to be. Announcements of a future Transparency law, to enhance an open access to public information and support good governance, are rather received with a cynicism that sociologists will need to study closely to get to the bottom of what social values really prevail.

After five years of economic hardships and budget cuts, high unemployment and sacrifices, Spain is now finding out what was under the rugs–partly, as a result of the craze of the boom years.

The chronicle of the last years in Spain is quite pathetic, indeed: from former leaders of the main employers’ association to senior officials in political parties that are in government in Madrid and regions like Catalonia, to a member of the royal extended family, financial crimes abound. The irregular economy volume still is increasing and has reached 30 percent of the overall system. Fiscal fraud is estimated to be equivalent to 7 percent of the GDP. The size and organisation of the public sector is simply destabilising. Spain’s largest companies need go abroad to grow. Spanish taxpayers are caught in a net of bubbles and bottomless pockets for which they’ll have to make huge efforts in order to fix the whole mess.

This is the environment amid which the Spanish brand is trying to regain trust, and this is why it is so difficult to achieve much progress in the short term. After many decades, it is still necessary the voice of those championing common sense, stronger and more neat state structures, honest politics, innovation and more democracy.

About the Author

The Corner
The Corner has a team of on-the-ground reporters in capital cities ranging from New York to Beijing. Their stories are edited by the teams at the Spanish magazine Consejeros (for members of companies’ boards of directors) and at the stock market news site Consenso Del Mercado (market consensus). They have worked in economics and communication for over 25 years.

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