I suppose the day will dawn when I eventually understand the Spanish economy but I fear it’s a long way off. This is a country which has been by far the largest beneficiary of EU munificence since the late 80s and will go on being in the top two for at least another seven years. This surely suggests the country is amongst the poorest in Europe. And yet every time I go down into town I see a new café/bar has opened and there’s at least one new branch of a bank being fitted out. OK, this may be accounted for by local wealth but it was reported again today that Spain has the highest per capita house ownership in the EU. One reason for this is the highest second-home ownership in Europe. Behind Spain in the list – for similar reasons – come Greece and Portugal. I’m left wondering whether the simple explanation for all this is the notoriously high levels of ‘black cash’ which are said to circulate in each of these countries. And which are presumably ignored for the sake of the statistics which justify the EU hand-outs. But, if so, why isn’t Italy higher in the list?
Talking of wealth, another of our regular surveys advised us today that only 2 of Galicia’s 315 townships have per capita income above the Spanish average. These are Beariz and Avion up in the hills, where they have their own little aerodrome. The article stressed the wealth was based on business success in Mexico on the part of emigrants from these villages. Though, interestingly, the writer could not bring him/herself to explain the business in question was prostitution.
Fifteen years or so go Brussels demanded the Spanish government crack down on the region’s age-old cigarette smuggling. The Law of Unintended Consequences resulted in the locals deciding that, if they were going to be harassed, they might as well make things more worthwhile for themselves. So they turned to cocaine and Galicia duly became Europe’s main point of entry for the stuff. In the process, infamous ‘clans’ were formed but I read today that these are now being displaced by Columbian barons. On balance, I suspect this is bad news.