The Euro zone


According to a new survey commissioned by El País newspaper, most Spaniards are expecting another economic crisis within the next five years. The poll revealed that 81.7% of Spanish people believe that Spain will experience another downturn before 2023. According to 53.4% of respondents, meanwhile, the country is still sunk in a recession that officially ended in 2014, although it's improved in some respects. Yet some wouldn't even concede that: 31% of the survey's participants said that Spain hasn't recovered at all from its recent economic woes.

The picture that emerges from the El País poll - in which 2,000 people were asked 21 questions about the effects of the 2008-2014 economic crisis - is of a nation unconvinced by stellar GDP statistics, or by politicians' rosy fiscal narratives. It also provides pointers on how Pedro Sánchez's government could increase its fragile popularity.

The Official Version of Spain's recent economic past is tremendously positive. Primarily expounded by deposed prime minister Mariano Rajoy, it describes a country that has emphatically left recession behind. With three consecutive years of GDP expansion over 3%, Spain boasts one of the fastest-growing economies in the eurozone. Unemployment has also been steadily falling, from a critical high of 26% in 2013 to a present rate of 15%.

Although the country's public debt is still equivalent to almost 100% of its GDP, Sánchez's new government promises to reduce it at the same time as increasing welfare spending. The Socialists will thus end the reign of austerity over which Rajoy presided, and which the former prime minister said was key to economic recovery. Spain is a now a completely different country from the one that hauled itself out of a fiscal black hole in 2014. Austerity measures, even if once necessary, are no longer needed.

But most Spaniards see a disparity between this upbeat narrative and the reality of 2018: less than 1% of its respondents believe that Spain has completely recovered from the 2008-2014 crisis. Of the 81.7% who think that another one is imminent, 23.2% are certain of it, while 58.5% think it's probable.

The survey's participants primarily blame Spain's corrupt political class, its unruly banks and the housing bubble for the last crisis. One of Sánchez's biggest challenges, then, is to show that his government consists of ministers altogether different from the politicians who Spaniards believe caused the recession (at least in part). Luckily, the poll also gives him an indication of how he can do this.

Almost all the respondents (91.8%) believe that the Spanish banking sector and financial services industry need to be more tightly regulated by government, citing lack of such control as a reason why another crisis is imminent. It's a valuable pointer for a prime minister whose popularity is currently on an unstable footing.