Today is time to head home, to leave behind the always interesting city of Madrid, its magnificent architecture, its welcoming population, and its chirruping pedestrian crossings (no-one visiting can get that sound out of their heads after a day or two). And it’s a good opportunity to look back at the prospects for Spain and Portugal as both countries journey further into austerity.
Thus far, all that those austerity programmes have brought is cuts, lessening of demand, hiking of prices (including eye-watering VAT increases in Portugal), and the inevitable worsening of unemployment. Both countries – and, whisper it quietly, the UK too – need a strategy for growth. Because without growth, the economic situation will not markedly improve.
And growth is the issue that politicians are either ducking, or not addressing with sufficient vigour. That is true, whether the country concerned is within the Eurozone or not. So why all the hot air expended on blaming “Brussels” (so convenient to dump the blame on a city), the Germans, the French, and of course anything even remotely connected to the EU?
As with so much else, this keeps a legion of overmonied and untalented hacks in employment (I almost used the term “gainful”, but that would have been a word too far). Many of them are the equivalent of passed-over Majors, most are writing to order – that doesn’t just include the Daily Mail nowadays, sadly – and the frothing and ranting is held to sell papers.
In the face of this wave of punditry, it’s easy to lose sight of the real issue: economies around the world are doing badly, whether they are part of the EU, or not. Currency zones do not explain away the endemic problems. This much will endure, until the assembled hackery is proven as wrong as ever, and then the passed-over Majors will be nowhere to be seen.
And with that thought, this Iberian journey concludes.