Spain and Not Spain

Sherry Bar, Malaga, Spain

Photo: Not Greece (A great bar in great Malaga – Antigua Casa de Guardia, at Alameda Principal 18)


‘Spain is not Greece’, ‘Spain is not Greece’ – it’s been all over every newspaper, national and international, for so long now, that everyone starts scratching their heads and thinking… Oh, maybe Spain is like Greece?! I suppose it’s a deliberate conspiracy to undermine the Spanish economy… Perhaps if we had months of headlines decrying “Spain is not Mars!”, or “Spain is not Las Vegas!”, then we’d all be wondering whether in fact Spain was a nice warm red planet, or a good place to throw away your life savings at roulette.

In any case, according to the BBC, Spain is “to unveil deep budget cuts amid EU economic fears” – just to make sure that Spain is not Greece, Spain is not Greece, etc…. (I wonder what the timeframe between ‘unveiling’ and ‘doing’ is…)

Not Totally Spain:

And now, for some good news… A few recommendations of things I’ve found interesting recently that have nothing or a just tiny bit to do with Spain…

1. A History of the World in 100 Objects is one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve ever listened to.

Each short episode is based around an ancient object from the British Museum (a 5,000 year old writing tablet from Iraq, a 10,000 year old sculpture of 2 lovers from the time when man invented farming…), and is filled with fascinating information about the world at the time the object was created.

2. I’ve been watching Simon Schama’s The Power Of Art – also totally fascinating, and especially interesting to Spain lovers is the episode on Picasso’s Guernica, his epic response to the bombing of the small Basque town by German military planes at Franco’s behest in the civil war. Really worth watching, and the other episodes are more than worth the price of the DVD too.

3. I’ve started reading The Grapes Of Wrath and, only 40 pages in, think it’s some of the best literature I’ve ever come across. I’m in no hurry to get to the end, every page shakes with the power of Steinbeck’s horror at the fate of man, every line is poetry!

And finally…

Feel free to start any comments by completing the following newspaper headline:
“Spain is not _________________”

19 Replies to “Spain and Not Spain”

  1. Catalonia is not Sp… oh hang on, I don’t think I’ve got the hang of this yet. (And yes, that was a joke).

    Seriously: I can completely understand the urgency with which Spaniards have been attempting to defend their country from these rapacious cabrones known as the financial sector. S&P, BNP Paribas et al seem to lack any remorse whatsoever for attempting to bring about a run on European countries and the Euro.

    Spain isn’t Greece. We might not have the best economy in the world but people here seem to be positive and hopeful, and Spain’s national debt isn’t nearly as cataclysmic as Greece’s. Spain, after all, still produces stuff.

    Spain will be OK… we just have to hope that Zapatero’s cuts won’t be too swingeing. Bon dia!

  2. From what I’ve heard it’s a 5% pay cut for the funcionarios, to be frozen next year (the pay, not the funcionarios), a freeze on pensions, an end to the cheque bébé, and a 2% increase in VAT. Considering the funcionarios have been getting steady pay rises over the last few years anyway, I don’t think they can complain too much about a 5% pay cut. I expect the unions will make a noise though, however I hope it’ll be done in a civilised way. Spain is not Greece.

    Unfortunately most commentators I’ve read are saying it won’t be enough though – Spain’s growth predictions are apparently too optimistic. So maybe we should be prepared for more cuts/tax increases to come.

    1. “I don’t think they can complain too much”… I think they will!! I have too funcionario in-laws, it’ll be intresting to see what they have to say about this!

    1. Anton, I find the bbc world service news podcasts pretty useful, daily current affairs, latin american emphasis.. not language oriented like the excellent notes in spanish podcasts, but good for practice, especially if you already know what’s going on in the world

  3. Hasn’t there been a recent infusion of cash for Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, from the rest of the EU? Hasn’t that provided short term improvements ( a brief rally in the markets)?

    1. I’m no expert on this either. But I believe a bailout fund of about €500bn has been agreed by the eurozone countries. However, while the fund appears to have been agreed, I don’t think any country has yet been bailed out, and I don’t think this will happen for a while since it’s a bit of a political minefield. Why should an austere German who must work until the age of 67 have to bail out a profligate Greek who doesn’t pay his taxes and demands the right to retire at 54?

      So for a country to receive any of this money, I expect they must first demonstrate that they are as fiscally austere as Germany. Which I think is one of the reasons Portugal, Greece, Spain, etc are suddenly making cuts.

      So this fund won’t prevent a lot of pain in some countries, and questions are being asked whether it’s is possible to implement such cuts in certain countries: we’ve already seen riots in Greece, will the same happen in Spain? (Is Spain Greece?). However the fact that the fund has been agreed should at least prevent the immediate problem of these countries coming under “attack” from certain speculators. For the time being.

      Of course it’s not the speculators who have caused this problem – they are just opportunists who saw a structural weakness in the euro and tried to exploit it. In fact they have forced the eurozone leaders into agreeing this bailout fund which, for those who still think the euro is a good idea, must be a good thing.

    2. No. The only country to have received a financial lifeline from the rest of their european counterparts is Greece. Spain has not received or asked for funds, in fact from the whole of the bail out contribution to Greece (80 billion €) Spain put up 10 billion.
      The problem in Spain is not public endebtment of the administration but private endebtment from individuals plus high unemployment due to the meltdown of traditional lines of work which always had a low productivity.

  4. Simon Schama’s piece of Picasso is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I love that.

    Spain is not the next domino to fall…or is it?

  5. Bearing it mind that they were the instigators of this downturn in finances … have you noted that Fannie Mae is looking for a $8.4 billion handout …

    and I thought they were inprison?

    It’s truly frightening to see what people are going through with this recession and Spain, such a beautiful country and having undergone so much in the past …

    we can but hope that it won’t be bled dry by the greed of governments.

  6. Spain is not being bled dry by the greed of governments, thanks for asking. It has a bit of a problem not being able to devalue its currency separately from other Eurozone countries, so wages are going to drop a bit (and maybe prices, fingers crossed). But a cheaper Euro is good for tourism, which is good for Spain and Greece.

    1. I think the official line is:

      Greece has a high deficit and a high national debt.

      Spain also has a high deficit, but the national debt is relatively low, which buys Spain time to do domething.

      Greece also has a much bigger tax evasion problem.

      I personally believe Spain can improve its situation by selling off the remains of state companies such as Telefonica and RENFE, and deregulating. I doubt that Zapatero will want to do that, but he might not have a choice.

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