A few days ago, I was contacted by a friend of mine, in New Zealand, who was concerned about the bad news affecting the economy and, particularly, Spain, where I currently work. In answering the two questions he asked me, I have tried to describe what seems to be the main problem of this country (and many others, but Spain is indeed a glaring example), and in doing so, hope to provide an alternative insight to counter the facile accounts of idle Mediterranean workers and “Club Med resorts lifestyle”, frequently advanced as the logic for Spain’s demise. As a regular reader of Paul Jorion’s blog, I asked him if he would do me the favour of reading my text. Not only did he kindly agree to do so; he also proposed that I publish it.
First Question : “It would be very interesting to hear your views on the economic situation in Spain.”
Answer : Well, in reality, it is a question of sorting through the views presented in the media. To go straight to the most covered subject, employment, one has to consider that there’ve always been a lot of “under the table” jobs in Southern European states, but this is not what can drive the public deficit to a critical point. Of course, tax inflows are reduced that way, but this didn’t prevent Spain from having a positive balance before the crisis, i.e. no deficit! On the contrary, this black market means the authorities still have some room to manoeuvre. In spite of this, many analysts say that this is too bad, that 20 % unemployment is unbearable. Well, shall I remind them that the unemployment in the USA is officially over 9 %, but if you add the part-time jobs of only a few hours per month, then you reach… 20 %! The only difference is that in Spain these part-time jobs are often undeclared. Gosh, this is such a “tradition” in the Mediterranean, that if what the mass media say were true, then Spain and consorts should have already collapsed at least ten times in the last 50 years!