Spain tires of penitence even amid the Lent processions
Austerity may seem to suit the mood as Spaniards prepare for Easter, but anger is growing over a bleak-looking future
As hooded Easter week penitents processed mournfully through Spain’s cities on Good Friday, Spaniards were wondering just how much past economic sins will come back to haunt them.
With bond yields hitting records for the year and the most austere budget in decades bringing further pain to a country already stricken by 24% unemployment, prayers for deliverance are unlikely to be answered any time soon. Analysts increasingly believe that like the other “sick men” of Europe – Ireland, Greece and Portugal – Spain will eventually need bailing out.
For some, it has already become too much. Last week, Diego Salazar carted dozens of cardboard boxes of books from his Madrid apartment to the aptly named La Realidad (“Reality”) bar and began selling them off at €3 an item. “This just doesn’t work any more,” said Salazar, a Peruvian who has worked as a journalist, writer and editor in Madrid for more than a decade. “I’m going back to Lima and I can’t take the books with me.”
Analysts suspect Spain will need aid from the so-called troika – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – that most recently rode to the rescue of Greece for a second time. “Spain is likely, in our view, to be pushed into a troika programme of some sort during 2012,” according to analysts at Citigroup.
Spain’s government, meanwhile, tried to outdo the spiky-hatted nazareno penitents by putting on a public display of self-chastisement aimed at convincing sceptics about the seriousness of its deficit-cutting measures. “First the deficit, second the deficit, third the deficit,” intoned budget minister Cristóbal Montoro as he gave details of €27bn (£22bn) of cuts, tax hikes and extraordinary measures for this year.
In an attempt not to inflict too much damage on the economy, Montoro included a tax amnesty in the budget, allowing those who have been cheating the revenue to pay a one-off 10% tax on their hidden money. This has been conceived as a way of belatedly cashing in on the spectacular residential construction boom – a bubble, that four years after it burst, has left building companies and developers saddled with huge loans they can not repay.
Pictured: Spain at Easter: a Holy Week procession in Malaga. Photograph: Emilio Morenatti/AP