An English Residents View of Spain’s Economic Woes

Just about the whole world knows Spain has major economic problems at the moment, which makes it no different from the rest of Europe. Each country has its own reasons for the current state of its economy, Greece because it fiddled the books, Portugal and Italy because they  just spent too much etc etc. the list goes on. As someone who has lived in Spain for four years, I believe Spain’s problems are caused by something other than just spending too much.

Spain's GDP Takes a Nosedive

I freely admit I am no economy expert, but judge things more on what I see from day to day – the nitty-gritty analysis I leave up to the experts. As someone who has observed life in Spain from the sidelines as it were, in my opinion, most of the problems in this country are caused by three main things; 1. An ineffective government, 2. major corruption and 3. massive inefficiency.

Zapatero - What Could I Have Done Better? - Everything!

Under Zapatero’s government it seemed as though they were not interested in governing and solving the countries problems, just sitting in their ivory towers in Madrid and talking, which is something the Spanish are very good at. Ask someone on the street the time, and you end up in a half-hour one-sided conversation. They love the sound of their own voices!

Rajoy - A New Broom - Let's Hope So!

In just about all respects, the Zapatero government were a waste of space. Whether the new guy on the block Rajoy will be any better we must wait and see. But whoever is in charge, Spain needs a governing body that will be seen to actively tackle the root problems, and most important, keep the public informed on how and why!

Marbella Council Members In Court For Corruption

Spain’s second major problem has been around since the seventies, and that is corruption. Here in Marbella practically the entire local council was arrested a few years ago for massive corruption running into hundreds of millions of euro’s since 1991. This went all the way from the mayor down through city hall. Many of the corrupt officials are now in prison but the courts are still trying to track down the massive amounts of money that were siphoned off, and they are not getting very far.

Highly Dangerous A7 Between Marbella and Fuengirola

The results of the fraud can be seen everywhere in Marbella in rundown buildings, broken road surfaces and a generally poor infrastructure. The effects of this have been far reaching, for example, the street lights along a twenty kilometer stretch of the most dangerous motorway in southern Spain (A7 E340) have recently been switched off because two local councils don’t want to be the ones having to pay for the electricity.

The Shrinking Beaches

Every year beach sand is washed out into the Med but has for some time not been replaced because of cost. This means in effect that beaches along some stretches of coast between Marbella and Fuengirola are shrinking to the extent there is not much left when the tide is in. Eventually this will have a major impact on tourism, which lets face it, is Spain’s bread and butter for it doesn’t have any heavy industry apart from the building trade. Its only other real source of income is the agriculture sector.

An Unfinished Dream Home

The building trade, which has flourished ever since it began in the 1960’s suddenly died in 2008 due mainly to the banking crisis and the collapse of the mortgage market. This whole stretch of coast is marked by half-completed buildings that may never be finished.

 

Living on a Hillside

Realising back in the 60’s that tourism was a major winner, they have over the years built on almost every patch of open ground capable of taking a block of apartments or a villa (plus some that are not) and it has proven a major money winner for the country.

Demolishing Someone's 'Illegal' Dream Home

The Marbella council members made much of their illicit money in kickbacks for allowing builders to flout the existing building laws, and so currently, many people who bought their dream villa or apartment and moved lock, stock, and barrel to the Costa have had their home torn down because they were built illegally. This has happened to many over the past three years and even pensioners have been left on the pavement with their furniture. Now things are being handled in a more humane way and many such places will eventually be made legal. The builders guilty of the corrupt practices have of course pocketed the money and are long gone.

The sad thing is, the Spanish government did nothing to curb all these excesses, and the massive criminality associated with the building trade. Some people living in England put down vast sums of money to have a Spanish company build them a villa on the Costa, only to find all the ‘progress reports’ were lies when they come across to see their dream home and found it either as foundations only or perhaps a couple of walls. The builder of course was long gone with his ill-gotten gains. My own sister had a villa built and the local building company couldn’t even follow the plans for many rooms were the wrong size! This building fraud much like the Time Share fraud of old has been completely ignored by the government and the police, because let’s face it, it only happens to foreigners! 

Local Police - Car Bound

Another interesting factor is the police are only interested in ‘high profile’ crime. Spain’s traffic and local police are next to useless, preferring to sit on their fat asses in their patrol cars rather than fight  everyday crime like beggars and traffic violations which is one of the reasons Spain has the highest annual mortality rates for road accidents (35,000) in Europe. But gross inefficiency is not limited to  the police, its everywhere.

An Expensive Accident

My wife and I had occasion to go the the Marbella Justice building a couple of years ago, and when we entered the office there where about five people lounging at desks. One eventually came over and asked what we wanted. We gave them the paper we had received and the man tried to find the file relating to our business. Every table, cabinet and available floor space was covered with half-a-metre deep piles of files as if it was a repository for waste paper. After searching for about fifteen minutes the man came back and said the person dealing with our situation was on holiday and could we come back the following week because he could not find the file – no surprise there! The idea of a proper filing system seemed beyond the entire department. When dealing with the local council in some cases you get bounced from one department to another, and these are spread about in buildings all over town instead being together in just one. 

Latin American Call Centre - About as Far Removed From Reality as You Can Get

Dealing with Spanish companies like Vodafone or the electricity company is a nightmare due to inefficiency. You have to call a certain number to get someone to deal with your query or complaint and you end up talking to someone in South America who has no idea what you are talking about. If you start getting frustrated they turn abusive as has happened with my wife when calling Vodafone. When our internet dropped my wife was on the phone for almost two hours!!!

In all good faith, I cannot ‘paint everyone here with the same brush’ for there are many Spaniards who are kind, courteous, and do what they can to help within the rotten system, but generally speaking, Spain needs to inject a huge amount of efficiency into the day to day running of the country from top to bottom. The police need to get off their backsides and do the job they are paid to do by sorting out the corruption and fraud which is endemic here. The government needs to start governing properly and let the people know that it is doing so, otherwise little will change in the forseeable future.  

Happy New Year Everyone

I sincerely hope that the new government can come to grips with all the root problems here and get the economy back on track, for it is a pleasant place to live, and of course the weather is divine. This will be the last entry for 2011  and outside it’s 20*C with wall-to-wall sunshine. Just the way we like it!

Have a wonderful New Year and may your blog audience grow beyond your wildest dreams.

Roy.                           

 

4 Responses to “An English Residents View of Spain’s Economic Woes”

  1. I think that is among the most vital information for me.
    And i am happy studying your article. But wanna observation on few normal issues, The web site
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    Good activity, cheers

    Like

  2. maria Says:

    As a Spanish person who has also been living in the UK, I feel very angry, to say the least, at your comments and particularly at your generalizations.

    Like

    • Hi Maria,
      I am sorry you are offended, but sometimes the truth does hurt. I don’t believe I have ‘generalized’, because the cases I stated all happened. As you must know, the Spanish papers have been full for years of the corruption cases that have been taking place over the past few years. So far as the incidents at the court building, Vodafone, and the street lighting etc are concerned, they all happened. As I said in the post, not all Spaniards are the same, but I stand by my statement that the inefficiency, corruption and scams (such as the building trade and Timeshares) have existed for forty years, and are still going on today. Both the government and the police seem totally incapable, or disinterested in doing something about it, and I for one suspect its more the case of the latter, because lets face it, it only affects foreigners.
      Best Regards,
      Roy.

      Liked by 1 person

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