We’ve heard the numbers, 24% unemployment, 50% unemployment for those under 30, and people losing their jobs, benefits and homes everyday in Spain. But what’s it like to live in this economy? Guest writer Peter Lavelle gives us his perspective from Madrid.
By Peter Lavelle
How’s Spain doing in the crisis?
Well, I think it’s fair to say there are lots of different versions of the country in existence at the minute, and they’re not that easy to reconcile. For instance, you might log onto Google, and enter the words ‘Spanish bailout.’ Were you to do so, you would read that the Madrid government sold €4.5bn in debt at its lowest yield since April today, at just 5.458%. This reflects the fact that the financial markets still expect Spain to request a bailout. Yet it’s nonetheless good news. It means Spain can breathe more easily, you might think.
Or, you might try another search, and enter ‘Spanish economy’ into Google.
Here, you would come across a Reuters article entitled ‘Spain’s regional crisis hits homes and families.’ This reveals the fact that Spain’s public workers are going unpaid, because the ‘ayuntamientos’, or town halls, are unable to pay their bills. The article speaks of one woman, Inma Martinez, who in spite of the fact that she’s come in daily to perform her job cleaning the bus station at La Linea de la Concepcion, hasn’t been paid in eight months.
Or you might take a walk, if you happen to live in Madrid as I do. And what would you find?
The cleaners appearing like clockwork each Sunday to sweep up the rubbish. Terraces full of people, especially at Montaditos, which offers a ‘cerveza’ for just €1 each Wednesday. Sure, you might see the occasional raggedy person searching the bins for food. But on the whole, life goes on as normal. So it’s hard to say how Spain’s doing. You read about things like bond yields, and it doesn’t seem to have the least bearing on daily life. When bond yields were at 7.5% back in July, and everyone was talking about a euro collapse, I was getting up at 7.00 a.m., working eight hours, and learning Spanish in the evenings. Now they’re at 5.4%, it’s apparently better for Spain, but I’m still doing the same things.
Yet equally, do the experiences of people like Inma Martinez seem any more real? I can read about them, of course, and I can empathise, but it’s a different world from mine. The closest I can relate is the fact that one of my housemates is a philosophy teacher at a public school, and has just signed-up for jobless benefits. He’s also organised several protests against the cuts.
So how’s Spain doing?
Well, I could recite some statistics about unemployment rates and bad mortgages rates, and I can read about the unfortunate experiences of people I’ve never met.
But mostly, life in Spain is still good. Even with the current crisis, it’s an open, relaxed and enjoyable place to be.