surinenglish

THE EURO ZONE

Recovery effort

I come bearing good news: Spain's economy is already recovering from Covid! I know you're probably thinking that most of the available evidence points to the contrary, but it really is true, because Economy minister Nadia Calviño said so in a TV interview with Antena 3 this week.

Calviño, who is also one of the country's four deputy prime ministers, admitted that there had been an "intense but temporary" contraction in Spain's GDP so far this year, but quickly added that the "revival is under way". Phew!

It's not the first time that Calviño has spun this line. At a parliamentary session back in June, the boundlessly optimistic minister said that the economic recovery from Covid and lockdown had "already started". But what exactly did she mean?

Clearly, Calviño can't have meant that the economy had already started to regain strength just a few weeks after lockdown had been lifted: at the end of July, it emerged that Spain's GDP contracted 18.5% between April and June, a rate not seen since the outbreak of civil war in 1936. Combined with a reduction of 5.2% during the first three months of the year, that means that Spain lost almost a quarter of its annual GDP in the first half of 2020.

Tourism has also been severely affected by the virus and resulting lockdown. There were zero international visitors to Spain in April, and in June there were 97% less than in the same month last year. Tourist spending in the first six months of 2020 was down by 70% compared with 2019. And that was even before the UK's remarkably inept government slammed an indiscriminate quarantine on British tourists returning from any and all parts of Spain.

It's also hard to believe that the inexplicably early closing times of bars and restaurants is helping the hospitality industry return to full strength as quickly as it otherwise could.

Even more bafflingly, Calviño said in this week's interview that the government has to "keep on controlling the outbreaks to keep this [economic] trend going on". Controlling the outbreaks? Spain has recently seen a substantial increase in new Covid infections, despite the obligatory use of face masks, the imposition of social distancing and new regulations about smoking and bar and restaurant opening hours.

If taken literally, Calviño seems to be saying that cases must keep on rising, to ensure that Covid continues to have the same (negative) effect on the economy that it already has - which cannot possibly be what she meant.

What Calviño really meant is that her government is doing a sterling job of managing the current situation and that, as a result, Spain's battered economy is already out of the danger zone.

I'll let you be the judge of whether she's justified in making either of those claims.