Letter from… Spain

By Elena Gallego Díez-Canseco

Last weekend the Government of Spain announced new measures to be approved in Parliament. First of all, the extension of the lockdown until May 9, however, with the remaining measures, the de-escalation has slowly begun and it gives us a sign of hope.

The arrival of the third wave and the new strains of coronavirus have brought again the shadow of uncertainty and unrest: new confinements, perimeter closures, early curfews and high numbers of infected and deaths.

In a country like Spain, whose tourism represents 12.4% of GDP and which welcomed 83.7 million tourists in 2019, the pandemic has had and continues to have devastating consequences in all sectors, and thus, experts warn that Spain will hardly see improve its economy until late 2022 or early 2023.

However, the light at the end of the tunnel begins to show timidly. The covid-19 vaccine has raised expectations about the recovery, despite initial delays and doubts generated by the supply company Astrazéneca. Additionally, Spain is preparing itself to receive foreign tourists during the Easter break (with the contradiction of the territorial immobility that we Spaniards who live in the peninsula suffer), which breathes some encouragement for both areas.

On the other hand, there is the vaccination passport. It is an issue still under discussion since there are discrepancies between the community partners: in the case of Spain and other southern countries dependent on tourism, they claim to accelerate this instrument, which in turn has objections in other European countries. The controversy is served: economics vs ethics & scientific evidence.

As a final thought, a Valentín Pich’s phrase -he is the president of the General Council of Colleges of Economists in Spain-, which takes on special relevance in these times of health and economic uncertainty: “What we do know is that when we fall deeply, then we grow rapidly.”

Starting April 27, Spanish children will be allowed outside for the first time in five weeks, although there are not yet many details of how this will be implemented. President Sánchez also announced that the relaxation of the confinement will be gradual and by area, with the warning that lockdown measures will be reinstated if the data indicates a rebound.

As in most of the countries around us, these new measures have given rise to controversy, fuelling the existing open fight between health and economic interests. 

Nothing reflects this better than a recent headline published by one of the largest circulation newspapers in our country: ’Health and economy: two faces, the same battle’.

The publication states that the price to beat Covid-19 is the shutdown in production. There is no other solution. The “economic crisis” is the direct effect of our determination to fight the virus.

On the other side of the argument, there are discordant voices highlighting the pressure of the lockdown and calling for the relaxation of many of the confinement measures due to the coronavirus, which are wreaking havoc on the economy and reaching a point of no return. According to this position, with the necessary protection, it is possible to start reactivating part of the industrial and business fabric and gradually return to normality, as is being seen in neighbouring countries.

None of the above theories has a guaranteed solution, in the face of such an exceptional situation. 

Perhaps the closest is the Norwegian economist Finn Kydland, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Economics, who has an outstanding grasp of Spain, who has stressed that, in our country, keeping the human capital is the key to getting out of the coronavirus crisis: “If confinement does not destroy it, recovery will be quick,” he has stated.

In any case, what remains unchanged is the word that defines our fight against the Covid-19 global pandemic: RESILIENCE – the ability of the human being to overcome adverse circumstances or traumatic events.