Spain has come in for a lot of criticism from abroad, principally the British press and the European Parliament, about the abuse of property rights and the environment during Spain’s gold-rush property boom of the last decade, but there was surprisingly little discussion of these issues in Spain’s mainstream press.
So it was interesting to read a recent opinion piece in Spain’s leading daily paper ‘El Pais’, entitled ‘El Gran Saqueo’ or ‘The Big Plundering’, lambasting Spain for the mess it has made of its real estate sector, environment, and reputation. “You can hardly understand how such a huge scandal could have been swept under the rug for decades,” writes the author Rafael Argullol. As all addicts know, and that includes societies addicted to cement, you can’t solve a problem until you acknowledge that you have a problem, so this is surely a positive sign.
Admittedly it’s just one article, but at least this kind of self criticism is now being given space in influential media, which is progress of sorts. Sadly, politicians from both of Spain’s mainstream parties are still in denial.
Spain can still recover from the mistakes of the last boom, but only if it learns from them. Failure to do so means it is doomed to repeat them, which would ultimately lead to disaster. What does ‘disaster’ mean? It means a country, and in particular a coastline grotesquely disfigured by over development, a warped economy, a corrupt body politic, and a poorer, dysfunctional society.
Anyone who is interested can read the El Pais article, as it was published in English a few days later at the El Pais / International Herald Tribune website, under the title ‘Land Grab’ (pdf document, opens in new browser).