- Before the phoney boom, unemployment here was at 7%. After the inevitable crash, it peaked at 26% but has now fallen back to as little as 24%.
- Electricity prices continue to rise as if there were no constraint upon them. Which there isn't. As with internet prices, they're among the highest in Europe. No one knows why.
- Spain's education system continues to be lambasted by international organisations. The OECD reports that 25% of 15 to 29 year olds are NiNis/NEETS - neither in training nor working. Only Turkey has more of these. Almost 14% of people with a higher qualification are unemployed. No wonder they leave the country, if they can.
- Human Rights Watch says the Spanish government has failed to protect vulnerable citizens from the effect of the housing crisis. Their report documents the harsh housing conditions faced by millions across Spain, focussing on families who have lost their homes due to defaulting on mortgage payments amid economic recession and widespread unemployment. Spain’s bankruptcy law, says HRW, fails to provide a ‘fair, accessible pathway to discharging debt’.
- Polls suggest the upstart leftist new party - Podemos - would win a general election if it were held today. Rather as UKIP would in the UK. No wonder the main parties are worried and thinking about possibly doing as little as they can get away with about the widespread corruption over which they've presided for more than 20 years. See the end of this post for the FT's view on corruption here.
- Spain ranks no. 26 in the annual Prosperity Index. The leading EU country - would you believe - is the UK - at no. 13. with Germany at 14 and France at 21. 1st and 2nd were Norway and Switzerland, neither of which is an EU member.
- Spain, of course, is seen as a hot country, which is pretty true as regards the summer. Possibly this is why 60% of the houses here don't have any form of insulation and, therefore, suffer from damp in the winter. Usually because of condensation, it says here.
- Sometime before boom turned overnight to bust in 2008, someone thought it'd be a great idea to build a vast (200m m2) complex in El Cañaveral, south east of Madrid. The roads were laid out and building began on offices and houses but this was all stopped when only 20% of the grand plan had been completed. Here's an ad for a place for sale there. With luck, it might have services connected. The nearby town of El Cañaveral, by the way, has about 1,200 citizens. So, not much nightlife.
Finally . . . A couple of interesting and valid comments from a Times columnist today on the blatantly (and boringly) propagandist RT TV station - For every other national TV channel, the focus is on what's going on in their country. With RT, nothing is said about Russia. Which says more about them and their fears than about us.
THE FT ON SPAIN
Sorry does not expunge Spain’s political scandals
Voters see corruption as the nation’s second-biggest problem
Case by case, Spanish prosecutors are painting a disturbing picture of national and regional political structures riddled for years with what they allege are inappropriate, even blatantly illegal practices. Their investigations underline that public perceptions of corruption will play an important part in Spain’s next parliamentary elections, which are due by December 2015. Opinion polls conducted by the government-funded Social Research Centre show that only unemployment matters more than corruption.
For many voters, the elections will offer a chance to punish politicians deemed to have displayed an insouciant rapacity as Spain tumbled in 2012 into a €41bn European rescue of its banking system. Mariano Rajoy, prime minister, showed a keen sense of electoral calculation as well as courage last week when he apologised for his centre-right Popular party’s involvement in the latest scandals. It was the most explicit such statement of his three-year-old premiership.
Mr Rajoy, who has always denied any personal wrongdoing, qualified his remarks with the observation that Spain is neither “immersed in corruption” nor “worse than other countries”. Unquestionably, Europe’s financial crises exposed festering swamps of corruption in Greece, Ireland, Italy and other countries. Yet to be told this will hardly placate Spaniards impatient to see more honesty in their own elite.
The Spanish scandals engulf the opposition Socialists as well as the Popular party, a damning verdict on the duopoly of power that has characterised political life since the transition from Francoist dictatorship to democracy in the late 1970s. The flowering of some of Spain’s most egregious scandals under the Socialist government that held office from 2004 and 2011 is, in no small measure, responsible for the emergence of a new leftist movement, Podemos (“We can”), that may draw enough votes from the Socialists to deny them power next year.
However, both the Popular party and the Socialists should resist the temptation to view the corruption problem through the narrow lens of electoral advantage. For corruption is closely intertwined with three other challenges: putting the economy and public finances on a sound long-term footing, recasting relations between the central government and autonomous regions, and modernising institutional pillars of democracy such as the judiciary and education system.
In short, corruption and waste flourished thanks to obscure networks of influence that connected politicians with bankers and businessmen, especially in Spain’s regions, and were left untouched for too long by a semi-politicised and inefficient judiciary.
Now Spain’s economy is back to growth thanks to the spirited efforts of private sector companies, the calmer conditions brought about by the bank rescue and the labour market and fiscal policies of Mr Rajoy’s government. Yet unemployment is far too high at an officially estimated 24 per cent of the workforce. Bank lending remains weak and, in a context of extremely low inflation, Spain’s public debt is heading for 100 per cent of gross domestic product.
Likewise, Spain’s regional tensions may seem less acute now that Catalonia’s government has backed away from holding a referendum on independence. But this in no way reduces the responsibility to redesign Spain’s flawed system of regional autonomies. Equally important is an impartial judiciary. Above all, it is incumbent on Spain’s political classes to show they have learnt from their past misbehaviour. The health of Spanish democracy depends on it.