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The International Writers Magazine: Our Vigo Correspondent

Economic Turnaround in Spain
• James Skinner
The Spanish economy grew by 1.4 % in 2014 and a strong 0.7 % in the last quarter. Unemployment figures been reduced as consumer spending is on the rise on the back of increased exports, whilst inflation stands at -1.5%.

Spanish Flag

End of year Christmas shopping figures were up for the first time and a large number of new businesses were opened. The international financial institutions (IMF, European Central Bank and the EU) have not only praised the government for its efforts but have forecast more than a 2% growth for this year, the highest in the Eurozone. Naturally the government is on a high.

Added to the positive figures is an increase in tourism over last year. More than 65 million foreigners visited Spain and an increase of more than 5% is expected for this year. Next to the USA, Spain is considered one of the most attractive holiday resorts in the world.

Despite the good news, the recent ‘doom and gloom’ events in other parts of Europe, especially the horrendous jihadist attacks in France have dampened the euphoria, especially as a group of possible terrorists were arrested recently in the province of Ceuta on the African continent. The call was too close for comfort. Raids on other possible cells will take place and for once both the conservative (PP) government and the major opposition socialist (PSOE) party have signed a pact to pursue all possible channels that include investigating Muslim activities that could be considered as suspicious or inciting violence including assassination attempts.

Other good news is that the clamp down on corruption continues with dozens of culprits from all walks of public life up before the judges. Jodi Pujol, the charismatic leader of CiU, the Catalan nationalist party and President of Cataluña for 27 years is finally declaring before the judges how he accumulated hundreds of millions of euros deposited in tax havens in Andorra. He says that he inherited it from his father. Nobody believes him. The other case is that of ex-treasurer of the conservatives, Luis Barcenas who was jailed some two years ago and has been freed on bail. He could prove to be a thorn in the government’s side. He swears that tax evasion during his 20 years took place thanks to the party’s double entry accounting system with undeclared handouts to hundreds of party members. He still has to account for his own fortune of 40 Million Euros stacked all over the world. Both cases continue. 

A rather tabloid event took place last month when an obscure 48 year old Belgian socialite, Ms. Ingrid Sartiu presented a paternity suit against the retired King Juan Carlos stating that ‘she thinks he is her father’. Apparently, back in Marbella in 1965 her mother had had an affair with the future king without realizing who he was. The case is now up before the Supreme Court. At least it will keep us entertained for a while. The new King Felipe VI, as reported earlier is gaining popularity despite the other scandals that surround the Spanish royal family.

Another disturbing item was the death of ex ETA murderer ‘Bolinaga’ who had been released from prison in 2012 on health grounds due to suffering from terminal cancer. He was responsible for the murder of 3 civil guards and the infamous kidnapping of prison guard Ortega Lara for more nearly 2 years. For months he was a free citizen. The Association of Terrorists Victims is up in arms as till his dying day he never repentant for his crimes.

With the conflict going on in most of the Middle East, the anti-Semitist movements in Europe and the new possible war brewing up between Israel and Lebanon a new tragic event occurred a few days ago. Corporal Francisco Javier Syria in a UN lookout post on the border between the two countries was accidently killed by an Israeli rocket that hit its control tower. Despite apologies from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Spanish government is demanding an explanation. Just adds more fuel to the ongoing conflict in the area.

So what about the politics?

To start with, the charismatic and popular President of Andalucía, Ms. Susana Diaz has suddenly called for early regional elections by the end of March that has literally put the cat amongst the pigeons. This autonomous region has been governed ever since democracy by the socialist (PSOE) party although in the recent elections they had to form an alliance with the radical left Party (IU) ‘United Left’. Because of this call, their partners are up in arms. However, Ms. Díaz is smart. She does not see eye to eye with the present national leader, Pedro Sanchez and despite calls from sectors of the party for her to become the country’s main contender she has vowed, for the time being to continue fighting for her regional citizens. She is also 3 months pregnant!

Due to the good economic results, President Mariano Rajoy, at the party’s annual convention came out with all guns blazing stating literally, ‘It’s us or chaos!’ The rise of the ultra-left party ‘Podemos’ (We Can) boosted the PM’s vicious attack of the opposition, especially after the Greek elections and the immediate downfall of the banking system in that country. In the meantime, the Finance Minister has anounced a massive reduction in tax that hopefully will help the government in the forthcoming tumultuous year of elections.

It is too early to predict what will happen next as there are so many irons in the fire both here and abroad. At least we now have a government that is beginning to show a certain degree of assertiveness although other promises, such as the reform of the infamous abortion law, made during the election campaign were never implemented. The big ‘if’ however is what steps will be taken within the socialist party as they continue to lose supporters in favour of ‘Podemos’, including internal fighting, as hinted above and which way they wish to go in the future.

Finally we should not forget the regional government of Catalauña’s continued plea for independence despite the fact that they are in a deep financial mess.

See you next month.
 © James G. Skinner. February 2015

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