Many leave austerity-ridden Spain for a brighter future here, only to be sadly disappointed, reports CARLOS GONZALEZ
THE ECONOMIC crisis of 2008 had a dramatic effect in Spain, revealing a weak and volatile economy largely dependent on the construction industry.
Before the crisis hit, then prime minister Jose Maria Aznar proudly claimed that Spain was constructing more housing than Germany, Britain and France put together, boasting about what he thought was the successful model of the Spanish economic renaissance.
But the worldwide economic crisis sparked by banks and their mortgage debts bankrupted Spanish banks, necessitating a bailout from the public purse. It was the Spanish people who footed the bill.
The government loaned the banks €60 billion — which is never going to be paid back — while the ruling right-wing Popular Party (PP), ideological inheritors of nationalist Catholic Francoism, increased the cuts in education, public healthcare and pensions by far more than €30bn.
Austerity policies led to a rise in tuition fees and the deterioration of health services and the privatisation of certain sectors.
Corruption is devastating both the Spanish economy and political trust.
The recent case of Luis Barcenas, former PP treasurer, found guilty of bribing high government officials and illegal party funding, revealed the criminal nature of the Spanish conservatives who have ruled Spain for the last six years.
Corruption costs the country €87bn per year, which adds to the increasing debt. Spain is between the hammer and the anvil.
The lack of jobs together with the downturn in public investment had resulted in 2.6 million people in poverty by 2015.
Thousands of Spaniards have faced eviction as many cannot pay their mortgages to the banks that were rescued by their taxes.
The housing boom Aznar bragged about ended up in the hands of a few powerful banks and holiday companies which undoubtedly took advantage of the crisis.
This tragic situation has resulted in a sharp rise in people taking their own lives.
Yet while the number of poor people has increased by 10 per cent since the beginning of the crisis, wealthy Spaniards now own 10 per cent more than before, illustrating how profitable the crisis has been for the bourgeoisie.
Nationally, unemployment — which has hit the poorer regions of southern Spain particularly hard — is around 22 per cent, with more than four in 10 young people out of work.
The labour market holds little promise. The conservative government’s solution to the crisis is creating temporary, part-time and low-paid jobs with the sole purpose of embellishing the unemployment figures and making the rich even richer.
Meanwhile, textile production, shipbuilding and mining — the former industrial cornerstones of the north and east of the country — dwindle year on year thanks to the all-too-familiar processes of relocation and globalisation. It seems that Spain’s economy will solely depend on large-scale resort-based tourism.
Thus it is not surprising that nearly one million Spaniards have emigrated since 2008. Germany, Britain and France are the main destinations that Spaniards, especially the young, are choosing as better prospects for work.