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THE EURO ZONE ·

Where is all the digitalisation that the Socialist-led government claims it's implementing?

MARK NAYLER

Friday, 10 February 2023, 13:45

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A couple of weeks ago I lost an entire morning going through the procedure to obtain a replacement TIE. I left my flat on a lovely sunny weekday at 9am, with all the bits of paper I needed, buoyed by cautious optimism.

By the time I got home at 2pm I was a broken man, a shadow of my earlier self. I'd got the job done, though - just before the office closed for the day.

Now all I have to do is wait for fifty days, then make another cita to go and pick the card up in person at the police station, which is at the other end of town. And that's it!

The whole procedure, from making the first cita to getting my replacement card, will only have taken about four months.

That the in-person stuff took a whole morning was, I'll admit, partly due to an error on my part, albeit one owed to an inability to think clearly in a situation that was as absurd as it was infuriating.

But it was also due to the arcane, paper-heavy, cita-driven nature of the system. It made me think: where is all the digitalisation that the Socialist-led government claims it's implementing?

Pedro Sánchez has proudly said that, of the 70 billion euros earmarked for Spain from the EU's Next Generation loans, 70% will go towards digitalisation and greenification. But what, if anything, has so far been modernised?

There is a hilarious circularity at work here. One reason digitalisation isn't happening is because...digitalisation isn't happening. The computer system which will (one day perhaps) document the disbursements of Next Gen funds to businesses and regional governments was meant to be ready by the end of 2021; but last October, after a generous deadline extension from Brussels, there was still no sign of it.

As the IMF stated in a fiscal report on Spain last November: "The lack of systematic and comprehensive information on execution, including in national accounting terms, makes it difficult to assess the extent to which [Next Gen] resources are reaching the real economy."

To get an ID document or residency certificate in the first place is more complicated than obtaining a duplicate; it's therefore understandable, perhaps, that it requires spending serious time with a photocopier and some epic queuing at the bank and/or Foreigners' Office.

But my ordeal consisted in replacing a card to which I am already legally entitled, a process which will nevertheless take a third of an entire year.

Sánchez can talk about digitalisation as much as he likes, but until things like this can be done from a laptop, there will be no practical difference to the lives of most people. In Spain, you still have to get in line, not go online.

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